School vs Work
December 24, 2003 6:12 AM   Subscribe

So, continue eeking out a living, or try to go back to school while i'm unemployed and the financial aid will be good? My wife is transferring to UCSC, and i'm tempted to go for it as well, any advice?
posted by th3ph17 to Work & Money (7 answers total)
Depends on why you want to go back. Don't go back to school as a crutch. Go because it puts you closer to a goal -- a specific goal, not just "oh I'll have a degree so maybe I'll be more employable."

Although I'd take any excuse to linger at UCSC. Go slugs! (Kresge class of '94)
posted by kmel at 6:19 AM on December 24, 2003

So, back in the mid-90's, i got too busy/lazy as a web designer to finish my bachelors degree. For the last 3 years or so i've done primarily design and marketing development. Now, i'm recently unemployed, doing a little freelance work, teaching some Photoshop classes at night and trying to plan my next moves--which need to fit into my wife transferring to UCSC in the fall. I can't really score any Creative Director gigs with only a AS degree--and frankly i'm sort of sick of the whole thing....i don't feel fulfilled.

finding some rewarding nonprofit work would be great--but i'm thinking about going back to school and becoming a teacher.

any financial aid wizards or professional students on mefi? How do I go back to school and finish my degree while my wife spends the next part of the decade working towards her doctorate?
posted by th3ph17 at 6:19 AM on December 24, 2003

I had toyed with the idea of going back to school for computer science for a few years, but liked having a paycheck and coming home at night and leaving work at work, so my plans never went anywhere. Then, last summer I got laid off and it seemed like the perfect time to go back to school. I collected unemployment for the rest of the summer and started a second bachelor's at a local college. I had already applied for admission and financial aid, so I was pretty well set.

Two things two watch out for - if applicable. You can't collect unemployment during school (California) and they just denied my claim for benefits over winter break. And, two, I don't know about UCSC, but my school put a cap on my financial aid amount. It was enough to get me through the semester, but now between semesters, things are a little tight. A part-time job during the semester would have gone a long way towards alleviating this problem.

For the rest of my degree (2-2.5 more years) I'm probably going to take a few less classes a semester (maybe 12 credits as opposed to 17) and work a little more. It will take an extra semester or two, but I'll have a steady income and come out of it with fewer loans. And that will keep me at a "full-time student" level, so I can get maximum financial aid if I need it.

I'd be glad to answer any other questions too...

Also, is it just me or do college students get younger every year? Dang.
posted by bendy at 9:12 AM on December 24, 2003

Also, is it just me or do college students get younger every year? Dang.

yeah really. Being an older returning student does help with admissions though, right
posted by th3ph17 at 9:40 AM on December 24, 2003

Well, Santa Cruz is a tough place to live with a students' income, but then it's also a tough place to find a job, and if you're going to be a broke student anyway, I agree with kmel that UCSC is one of the most enjoyable places to do it. (Me: College 8, class of '83.)

If you're looking to career-change, having a bachelor's is probably a minimal necessity. I'd say check with the financial aid office as soon as possible and see what kind of aid might be available, and if you can continue to supplement that with any kind of freelance work, so much the better.

And if teaching is your goal, check on the job market in whatever geographic area you think you might end up in. (Where I live, we're way oversupplied with general elementary-ed teachers, but people who can teach HS math/science, or who have licensure for vocational-technical ed at either the high school or community/technical college level, have a lot of options.)
posted by Kat Allison at 10:15 AM on December 24, 2003

if your partner's heading for a phd and then research life you'll be moving every two or three years between postdoc positions. so it makes sense to pick a career that you can do anywhere (teaching sounds good, except that it might ot be transferrable to other countries). i'm a programmer, so i can get a job (almost) everywhere - it helped us.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:38 AM on December 25, 2003

Living on a student-loan salary can be tough. Well, that's not entirely accurate -- living on just the subsidized or unsubsidized student loans provided by the school can be tough (especially for an adult who likes more than ramen noodles, chicken wings, and cinder-block chic). But there are always private loans. The percentages are pretty good right now (I've seen 8 or even better from some lenders), so, though it's not free money, it's not like financing your life on credit cards. However, working for a non-profit or being a primary or secondary-level teacher is not going to bring home the kind of cake necessary to pay off a mortgage-worth of loans (like I have).

I'd apply and then sit down with a financial aid counselor to see what you can do. Assume that your wife will be self-sustaining, or very nearly so, since PhD students are almost always paid to go to school. The stipend that I get right now as a grad student at Georgia Tech pays the bills (but not the loan payments) but doesn't allow for an exorbitant life. So then it's just you and what you can live on -- you might be able to live frugally and make it through without any expensive loans at all (living with two people makes that easier, though I don't know a thing about Santa Cruz, except that the surfing is great).
posted by zpousman at 8:22 PM on December 29, 2003

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