College and debt

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Jena, Sep 16, 2005.

  1. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Aug 13, 2003
    I have not had much luck in finding a real job. I am currently working for a temp agency making $7/hour, typing all day in a basement (dungeon). Not my idea of a good job, but it's paying the bills. I have never had a problem finding work, but there have been lay-offs in this town, plus I think my age (41) is starting to work against me.

    At any rate, my long term plan is to go back to school. I want to get a Master's in Agronomy or maybe something along the Natural Resources/Environmental Science lines. I have been checking into requirements and I'll probably have to start back at JC, picking up lower division classes I didn't do for my business degree. I haven't been to school in 13 years and I'm going to have to start with Calculus and Chemistry. Fun, fun, fun. I think I can get those classes done this coming semester, plus summer and be ready to start at U of I next fall.

    After looking at scholarships, etc, I'm pretty sure I can get school paid for. I'm broke, I'm a woman going into a field where many schools want to increase female participation and I have a 4.0 GPA. Now I just have to figure out how to live in the meantime.

    Right now I am totally debt free. No mortgage, no car payment, no credit cards, no nothing but utility bills, a few medical bills and kid stuff. I don't have to pay child care and I have free medical insurance through my ex husband to whom I am still married just so I can have medical insurance. Things don't get any better than that as far as going to school goes. I will work while I go, but working full time and going to school full time won't work. Not if I want to keep that GPA, which I will need to get scholarships, etc. I will also have to commute over an hour to school, once I get the JC stuff done. I can probably do some on-line classes, but not too many are offered in the upper division work.

    So with all that....should I go for the student loans to help pay living expenses? I have always told my kids that loans to pay for tuition, etc are ok, but to avoid living off of borrowed money. That can accumulate so fast and even if they were going into a high paying career, those loans can be a burden. I am very reluctant to ruin my debt-free status, but darn....I'm over 40 and running out of time. I can't spend the next 10 years fiddling my way through school. I want to get it done, but I want to get it done right. I know that as a woman in these fields, I will need an impressive college career to land employment later....discrimination is alive and well in Ag.

    I just don't know what to do. Any advice or suggestions would be welcome.

  2. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    Student loans?

    Not yet.

    For the nine months at least , you can take what you need on-line and at JC. Borrow as little as you can, or you won't get them paid off until you retire. DO! work weekends starting now if you can and save some money: you are a Mamma and you know how to be frugal.

    When you DO borrow, leave it in the bank for as long as you can and use as little as you can.

    At one point, I took 7 units while I worked full-time. At night school, I took a 2 unit and a 3 unit class, and I took another 2 unit class where you checked out the lectures on tape at the library, and just took the tests when you said you were ready.

    It took me 4 years to do a 2 year curriculum, but I did it with no debt. It half killed me, though.

  3. BeckyW

    BeckyW Well-Known Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Absolutely right on using the JC first. When you're ready for the university, start by applying with FAFSA, the federal government program. You'll list each university you are applying to. This is done immediately after January 2nd of each year. What will come back to you is the offer from each university that accepts you what combination of grants, work study and loans they'll offer for you to attend. Scholarships are outside of that. As a middle-aged woman starting college for what I assume is your first degree, you'll find there are scholarships/grants available. If you are single, there are even more. If you're a reformed drug addict, even more (that's the system!). Depending on the grant, some can be used for living expenses as well as the college costs (tuition and books, etc). Fafsa packages are based on your income level. Scholarships are merit or merit & need-based.

    First thing for you to do is post your "resume" on fastweb and other scholarship sites. The software will sort through the 300,000 plus scholarships out there and have you apply for what fits. Talk to the university also, there may be funding for your specific major through the university - departmental scholarships.

    It is a cumbersome process but well worth the effort. Our second daughter is attending a great university on a full ride, between merit scholarships and grants. It covers the dorms as well. So far, we have paid for her parking permit, $150 dorm deposit and bought the dorm refrigerator & microwave. That's it.

    Oh, Fafsa is applied for every year you'll be attending college so it can fluctuate. It is all done online - very simple as long as you have your current tax returns done.

    good luck.
  4. shelljo

    shelljo Well-Known Member Supporter

    Feb 1, 2005
    SW KS--Cowboy country
    Ok, first, they are CC's, not JC's. I don't think there are any Junior Colleges out there anymore.

    Secondly, in the degree you are looking at, look at potential employers also. If you work for the federal govt when done, many times you can have those loans written off. Other employers will often do this as well. Vocational programs seem to pay off loans (or write them off ) better than liberal arts degrees or conventional degrees. Loans aren't bad, if you manage them correctly.

    I was able to pay for my bachelors myself via scholarships and working. But, not grad school. I did borrow $5000 (the max for one year way back in the 80's). And I paid it off quickly. Student loans have low interest rates and low payment schedules, making it easy to pay off quickly by doubling or tripling payments.

    My DH went back to college at age 36. We had to have loans to survive. He borrowed $12000, which was his salarly at the time (1998 and 1999). We have almost got it paid off. Couple more months and we're done. But, with our family, we couldn't have done it without his loans. He even had several affiliations where he had to travel to hospitals and nursing homes to practice his profession. He had to pay all those expenses. Guess my point is you can get those loans paid back quickly. You can get them deferred, or written off or paid off by different employers.

    By all means, get all the grants and scholarships you can first, but if you have to get a loan, you can, and it won't be too hard to pay off. Remember, online classes cost more than being live on campus. But, the more prepared you are at first, the better off you will be!

    Good luck.
  5. Bret

    Bret Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 3, 2003
    You are already successful. How much you make per hour is irrelivant to your success.

    By the end of today, you will have started on your Masters. At lunch today, call and make an appointment to enroll. You will then have your wagon pointed in the right direction. Do not listen to those little irritating negative internal thoughts. It matters not where you enroll. It matters that you start now.

    Things start falling in place when you choose your direction.
  6. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

    Sep 13, 2003

    I wish you all the best in starting up a new career and hope you can get back to doing some farming, even just on the side, some day.

    You might have tried this route, but did you look into any employment options at the college or university you want to attend? I think some schools offer free or reduced tuition as an employee benefit to those working toward a degree.

    Youngest daughter went to Iowa State and studied agronomy (plant breeding) and then did her masters' there as well in plant physiology. She got some sort of work study job in the plant analysis lab as a sophomore, and worked there all through school. She got a full-time job there after graduation and the school paid for quite a bit of her graduate study and it worked out well for her.
  7. heather

    heather Well-Known Member

    May 13, 2002
    western PA
    I hope I'm wrong about this, but if you are still legally married to your husband, don't you have to report his income & assets on your financial aid forms?

    You sound like you have a lot of gumption!
    I wish you the best
  8. cfabe

    cfabe Well-Known Member

    Feb 27, 2005
    In my opinion student loans are okay debt to take on as long as you have a good job outlook once you graduate. I had to take on sizable student loans but I was involved with a co-op program that made me very attractive in my field when I graduated and I was able to find a very good paying job out of school and pay off the loans quickly. When you do graduate make paying off the loans your highest priority. I have a lot of friends my age who went to college on loans in something that they liked but had a poor job outlook who are now really struggling financially.
  9. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2004
    I say NO to student loans! I'm one of those people who have a great degree (M.S.) and no job prospects. Plus I am paying 20% of my income for the next 29 YEARS to pay off the student loans. That means I'll be 71 when they are paid off. I feel like an indentured servant.

    Hindsight is always 20/20 but this has cost me so much in sleepless nights, frustration, my credit rating, taking jobs I hated just to pay the student loan bill, etc. I'm really really angry about it.

    I'm a scientist who just got laid off for lack of grant funding. Money for scientific research is tough to get right now so you will be competing for fewer jobs. The war on terrorism has drawn research funds away from basic research to bio-terrorism research. NIH funding levels are at the worst point in my memory. Hurricane Katrina restoration is going to further limit money for scientific research.

    One thing I could suggest is that you go work for an Ag company right now. You may have to move. A lot of companies will pay for your tuition for a class each semester. Better yet, go work at U of I! I've worked at 7 different universities and they all offered tuition credit. Plus, they have great benefits and retirement plans.

    My mother went back to school for her M.A. in archeology at the age of 53. She was only able to get part-time work when she graduated but she now heads up a bunch of volunteers at her local county historical society and has a couple digs going. But she has retirement and a part-time job still.

    Don't give up on your dream but don't be naive about the situation either!

    my two cents,

  10. cc-rider

    cc-rider Baroness of TisaWee Farm Supporter

    Jul 29, 2003
    flatlands of Ohio - sigh
    Ditto what someone else said about still being legally married. They WILL ask for his income, etc., on your applications for aid. A friend, who has lived on her own for a long time, tried to get financial aid and couldn't because she was still young enough that parents were financially responsible for her. Except they weren't. And she couldn't get FA.

    Also ditto about getting a job at the University. I worked as a secretary at a university long enough for my children to go to college for free, and I could have taken classes, too, if I wanted to. I think I was only allowed 3 a year, but that was enough to get enough "credits" to get a job in an area that I was interested in.

    Look at prospective employers and ask what kind of "education" they need. You might not NEED a formal degree to work there.

    Also, some colleges offer credit by "lifetime learning experiences" or something like that. You pay for the class, which is basically someone helping you create a portfolio of what you already know. Then it is graded and credit is awarded (sometimes the equivilent of a couple years-worth!) based on your knowledge. That might get you a good start on your degree if you already know alot of the stuff because you are DOING it already.
  11. Mid Tn Mama

    Mid Tn Mama Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 11, 2002
    As someone who has not taken loans to go to school I would say don't do it. It can be done, even with children. I don't think there are too many professions where you can bank on a good job at the end of the rainbow. I'll bet someone like you would be a ****-in for a university job as you go to grad school. I don't know much about Agronomy--but I have never heard it was a ticket to big bucks. You may have to be creative (share housing, care for the elderly) or really cut back on expenses (no cable, no subscriptions, no vacation ) for two years. It's hard with kids, but if you share that it's only temporary and everyone in the family is pitching in to help you can do it.
  12. lilmommajnn

    lilmommajnn Well-Known Member

    Aug 7, 2002
    Whether or not you have to declare the husband's income depends on if you are legally separated or not. If you are legally separated, you do not have to claim it. I just went through that with the financial advisor at a local college today.
  13. cc-rider

    cc-rider Baroness of TisaWee Farm Supporter

    Jul 29, 2003
    flatlands of Ohio - sigh
    If you are legally separated, can you still claim his insurance, retirement, etc??

    Heck, I should have "legally separated" instead of divorcing! All the benefits, none of the headaches!
  14. whodunit

    whodunit Well-Known Member Supporter

    Mar 29, 2004
    If you have to work part-time, look for jobs where your presence is the main requirement. This would give you time to study while earning an income. One of the first that comes to mind would be security. Another might be a night clerk at a motel. I'm sure there are others.
  15. Snowdancer

    Snowdancer Well-Known Member

    Sep 23, 2002
    Dyersville, Iowa
    also look at library jobs-many times you spend hours just being available in case someone has a question.

    I did my degree without financial aid but that was 32yrs ago. So I have no idea how financial aid works these days.
  16. roughingit

    roughingit knitwit

    Apr 6, 2005
    Watch out for CC's! Make absolutely certain that your credits will transfer! Many schools have all these weird classes *they* want you to take in your fisrt two years, so you'll have to make all those up. In my case, that meant a whole nother year of school. :flame:
  17. rzrubek

    rzrubek Flying Z

    May 12, 2004
    Chapel Hill, NC
    I advise you to do a job search as if you had the degree that you want to pursue and see what the market looks like. Also there is the gov site (sorry don't have link) Edited: found link that explains what a carreer is (job) and also gives projected growth of the field. My field is Respiratory Therapy and has a huge growth forcast. I started to go into Industrial Design, but one year into it i realized that there were only a couple of jobs and only in major metro areas like chicago. So I switched to RT and I am glad i did. I graduate in December, am 37 yo and finally going to get on with my life. Again, make sure there are jobs in the field and in the area you want to live. One other thing, CC's aren't always cheaper than universitys. The price per credit hour at MCC was less than at ASU, but I got a grant from ASU that more than made up for the cost difference that I did not get from MCC. I also got all the grants and loans that I got at MCC also. So that year at ASU actually cost me less than a year at MCC. Good Luck, Randy
  18. turtlehead

    turtlehead Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2005
    Central WV
    Don't take out any loans.

    I went back to school for my MIS. Like you, I had to pick up some undergrad courses because my master's degree was in a different field from my undergrad. I worked full time during the day and went to school at night. I took one course per semester if they were difficult, two if they were easy. I also had young children at the time. It was hell, but I did it and it opened doors for me.

    Try to get a job in the field of your interest - even if it's just secretarial work. Look for a job that provides tuition assistance.

    Alternatively, the night job at a hotel desk is a good idea. I know a guy who went through law school working nights at a motel.

    With your GPA you can get some scholarships. I did, and they help. Check out all the financial aid options available to you. Apply for everything. It all adds up.

    In today's economic climate, you simply can't count on jobs being available in a particular field 2, 5, or 8 years from now.
  19. Merrique

    Merrique Well-Known Member

    Jun 2, 2005
    southern Ohio
    As someone who has a large amount of student loan debt, I would also warn you to be careful. Be sure to choose a job field that you like and that will pay well. I made that mistake, my b.a. wasn't worth didley after i graduated. My first foray into grad school was also not completely successful. However, in Nov. I will finally get my M.A. in education and already have a job lined up.
    Don't just depend on student grants, apply for every scholarship you might be eligible for. Seek out a work study position as previously mentioned. However, when I was college, a majority of the student grant money went to students living on-campus. The day i moved into my first apartment, I lost over $3,000 in student grant money, this had to be replaced as loans. But most loan companies will work with you, they offer forbearance and deferrment options if they are needed. Good Luck!
  20. hisenthlay

    hisenthlay a.k.a. hyzenthlay

    Feb 23, 2005
    Southwestern PA
    If you DO decide that you need loans, try to stick with government loans like Stafford Loans (max $18,500 per year) or Perkins Loans--rather than private loans. Those government loans are done through FAFSA. I just got out of grad school on scholarships and Stafford loans, and I consolidated my loans at an interest rate of 2.77%. That's lower than both inflation and my savings account rate (3.3% at ING Direct, with no fees or minimums--check it out!)! The federal rate just went up in July, but it's still way lower than private student loan rates, which are at 6 or 7%, I think.

    I was planning on paying my loans off in about 3 years (27 years ahead of schedule), but I talked to different financial advisors who told me that was stupid with an interest rate less than inflation--the government is losing money on this deal, and it's better than a free loan to me. So I decided to split the difference by making only minimum payments on the loan, but putting all that extra money in savings so that I'm earning interest on it, and I have the freedom to pay it off whenever I want.

    That's my plan, and I'm happy enough with it. I don't think there's anything wrong with taking on some low interest debt if you can't reasonably avoid it, and you have a good plan for paying it off. Don't let a few thousand dollars stand between you and your dreams.