Future mapping -- what do I do about school.
August 19, 2013 3:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm 29 and finally ready to attend college for the first time. A year ago, I fixated on a program (up-and-coming) and a school (local, private, VERY well-regarded). Since last August I've been admitted, laid off, rejected for loans, hired, rejected for *more* loans. Last week I came to terms with not attending this September. Today I was unexpectedly approved for more aid that will almost cover my tuition (but none of my living expenses). Orientation starts in two weeks.

- My rent is high (studio apartment) and I want to move to a shared house with friends in October/November
- The job I have now might evaporate in January or February
- I currently work nights, but this will change in about a month.
- the program is intensive enough that I can't work a regular job while attending
- it is 8 terms. Attending year-round means finishing in under 3 years.
- I don't have anyone to consign loans for me

Option A: Attend Fall 2013
+ Start school when I originally intended
+ take advantage of the school's new generosity
+ not lose my registration deposit
+ graduate sooner

- still have to scramble to try to cover living expenses (and may fail)
- quit my job sooner than I want to (love my current project)
- less $$ in savings
- 'stuck' in an expensive apartment or move mid-term

Option B: Apply/attend Spring 2014
+ work my wonderful job through the end of the year
+ save more money
+ take my time finding a new place to live to drop my rent by 20%
+ improve/resubmit portfolio for a new/different scholarship

- lose current aid offer from school
- only have 6 weeks to make a super impressive portfolio (while working weird hours)

Option C: Apply/attend Fall 2014
+ work through the end of the project
+ lots of time to make a great portfolio (knowing I need a great scholarship)
+ lots of time to move/save money

- may be out of work after January (but maybe not!)
- starting school a year later means graduating a year later
- more delay means more unknowns/more time for things to change.

If I turn down the increased aid my school is offering me now (at the 11th hour), will it prejudice them against me when I reapply in the future?

Are there any exceptionally bad parts to any of these plans I'm not considering?

General advice/insight for my situation? None of the people close to me have relatable experiences.
posted by itesser to Education (14 answers total)
Can you go part-time in order to work a full-time job? This is how I paid for living expenses during school when my loans only covered tuition.
posted by joan_holloway at 3:39 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

On the financial aid side, what is the reason you can't get federal direct loans through FAFSA? Usually it would be because you already maxed out on borrowing them (if so, then wait a year and save money), or you're in default on previous loans? (Same). Anyone who completes FAFSA should be able to get federal direct loans, they're not based on credit. Unless your school doesn't participate in the direct loan program, which can be a red flag for other reasons.
posted by wannabecounselor at 3:41 PM on August 19, 2013

Many colleges allow admitted students to defer admission for a semester or year. If you defer, you would not have to reapply with a new portfolio. The admissions office is usually the place to start to pursue a deferral.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:45 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If I turn down the increased aid my school is offering me now (at the 11th hour), will it prejudice them against me when I reapply in the future?

Why don't you ask them this? It seems like a really obvious & reasonable question you'd want to know the answer to, and it would really help your decisionmaking process.
posted by town of cats at 3:49 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I constantly suggest this: any way to get a job with this college? (Probably after your current one ends, I guess?) As long as the position is benefits-eligible, most will pay for or subsidize part-time tuition. (Mine pays for two undergrad credits totally, or two grad credits less taxes.) That could cover tuition and living costs; no need for loans at all.
posted by supercres at 3:51 PM on August 19, 2013

Are these private loans you've been rejected/approved for? Are you maxed or in default on federal student loans? Or is your school not accredited for some reason? All of those things would lead me to lean much more toward your (B) or (C) options [or D)--apply somewhere else that can/will give you more aid. As a nontraditional student without much money you should really not be paying very much in tuition].

How much money in loans are we talking about, anyway? Are you likely to be able to pay your loans back without planning on winning the lottery or inventing the next Facebook?

I realize that these are nitpicky questions, but you already came to terms with not attending this fall and you made a plan--unless there's some REALLY GOOD reason for going ahead and starting other than "I'd like to get started on this" it sounds like the downsides of having higher expenses, leaving a job you like sooner, and scrambling to cover expenses make this a nonstarter. Trying to figure out how you're going to afford the electric bill is going to be just as distracting as having a job when you're in school.

I'd get in touch with the admissions office and the financial aid office and see if they can help you defer till next term in an organized way.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:08 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: A) About half the aid I'm expecting is already from FAFSA/federal loans grants. The other half is scholarships. Already drawing as much as I can from that well.

B) Loans I have been denied have been private.

C) Going to school part time is not an option. (their rules.)
posted by itesser at 6:22 PM on August 19, 2013

Response by poster: (And, yes, I will be talking to my admissions counselor about this as well as the financial aid office, but I have to take what they say with a grain of salt, considering they come from inside the institution.

Advice on the internet is taken with its own grain of salt.)
posted by itesser at 6:32 PM on August 19, 2013

FAFSA looks at your income from the past year. You will need to run the numbers, but in general the greater your income is this year, the lower your need will be next year (when you aren't actually working).

That being said... there is no money tree out there. How are you going to pay for living expenses? Can you pay for 8 consecutive semesters of living expenses? What if an emergency came up?

You should also find out the school's policy for taking a leave of absence in case you have to take a semester off to work or something.

I'm assuming that you applied for private loans because you maxed out federal loans. The maximum Stafford loan amount for independent undergrads is $57,500. That's a lot of money to pay back! Have you considered what will happen after you graduate? What is the job market looking like for graduates of this program? What is the expected starting salary? You should use a loan calculator (such as this one) to get a sense of what your monthly payments would be. For instance if you borrow $30,000 at 6.8% interest your monthly loan payment would be about $345 per month.
posted by oceano at 7:13 PM on August 19, 2013

You also don't have to keep the full loan amount. You can accept all of it, then immediately repay some portion of the overpayment.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:15 PM on August 19, 2013

To address one of your concerns: I moved during the middle of the school term once. It's manageable.
posted by aniola at 10:56 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you attend this fall, what will you be living on? This option seems like a complete non-starter. In fact unless you have some other source of money to tap into I'm not sure this college is financially feasible at all.
posted by plonkee at 12:25 AM on August 20, 2013

My inclination would be to start things now, get them rolling and once you have momentum you are more likely to stick with getting your degree. This "more time = better portfolio!" sounds like a lie I often tell myself. Saying "more time = better portfolio = more money!" is counting your chickens before they hatch, hell, before you've even built the chicken coop.

It also seems, you're assuming this school, this private school and its associated price tag, is your only option. Unless we're talking Harvard, I'd think pretty hard about finding a comparable program in a public school. Comparison shop. Would your loan amount take you to another school for full tuition and living expenses?

I frankly don't see how an extra year will really help you save much more, unless you're socking away rent x 2 for each working month. You will need to take a big hit on quality of life to do this, regardless of waiting a year, or going now. Beans and rice, and every free food event on campus you can find. Once you are no longer working, apply for food stamps.

Also, move today, regardless of when you attend. That extra 20% savings on rent is something you'll need whenever you attend.
posted by fontophilic at 6:15 AM on August 20, 2013

I'd start now. Bird in the hand, and you're mentally prepared for it.

Move in the middle of the term. I just moved a 3 bedroom house. You're moving a studio, it's not that big a deal.

A thing worth knowing on this. Lowes is doing this thing through Hertz On Demand where you can rent a pick up or a cargo van, fuel and insurance included for $15.00 per hour. This will make your move a mere bag of shells. Get the huge Cargo Van. You'll do it in about 2 hours.

You won't work a regular job, but you can get a gig bartending, or as night security (time for studying) or part-time call center work, or whatever.

Step out on faith!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:47 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

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