If you’re reading this blog, there’s a damned fine chance you’re in the same spot as Amia: you’re ready to go to college, except you’re broke and so is your family, so paying for college is a giant question mark. And even if “broke” isn’t exactly the right word, you still don’t have anywhere near the kind of cash lying around that your college expects you to pony up.
Heh! Just finished reading your old article on minority scholarships and how difficult it is to get a scholarship when you’re a middle-class non-minority, you have debt, blahblahblah (insert whining here.)
Yes, the minority scholarships post was quite the polarizing article, it seems. But you know what they say, any publicity is good publicity.
Not gonna lie, I find the complaints amusing. But that’s beside the point.
I’m a minority, and I live in a city that’s the southern hick version of the suburb Edward Scissorhands lived in. I have a job, my parents are both workaholics (a trait I developed), and we’re up to our eyebrows in debt. Hospital bills, a house that’s slowly crumbling, thieving/jealous relatives, and needy, broke, but loving grandparents have all but sucked us dry.
Wow….at least you have a job, I guess?
Not to mention I’ve got a little brother and sister not too far from graduating high school themselves.
With all that said…my university is great, but they offered me pennies in FinAid, FAFSA apparently thinks we’re strapped, and my parents can’t help me or they’ll literally end up in dire straits trying to support me.
We’re already struggling as it is. I’ve had to buy my family dinner out of necessity, not for a treat. I’ve also had to loan my mom most of the money I had set aside when I was an infant [chemical spill settlement fund that turned out to be…not that much.]
I haven’t gotten a single response from the scholarships I applied for, Sallie Mae turned me down (yay, credit scores!), and my current minimum wage job would barely be able to cover my medication and other cost of living stuff.
That’s all pretty rotten, agreed, except for the part about the feds thinking you’re strapped. I hope that means you have the full complement of federal financial aid available to you? More on that in a second.
As if this weren’t enough, I found out my Communication Design major might take 5 years to finish.
Try to finish in four. 🙂
Oh, and I can’t drive. No money for classes, no money for a license, no money for a car.
How much does a license cost? You may want to spring for the $20 for a license. Maybe you could make some side cash designated-driving for your drunken college friends. On the bright side, at least you won’t have to pay for a car, insurance, gas, upkeep, etc. (You know, if there’s a bright side here).
My college doesn’t allow freshmen to commute, either. So I HAVE to pay for housing.
…any ideas on paying for college and how to make it in 4 years without graduating when I’m 40, putting my family in the poorhouse, or selling my blood to make cash?
Yes, but first, about that blood thing — I actually sold plasma for an entire year to make ends meet when I started my Google advertising agency back in 2001. It’s actually not that bad of a gig if you’ve got some spare time on your hands. You get $20-$30 for sitting in a comfortable chair and watching some terrible new release on DVD and eating sugar cookies.
Do I move out early, homesickness aside, and try to see what declaring independent gets me?
No — it won’t help. You can’t just declare yourself independent, unfortunately. You’re going to be considered a dependent student even if your parents aren’t contributing to your education.
I’m 18, female, and my dad’s a cop. He’s a bit on the protective side. [Okay, more than a bit.] What do I do?
Well, let me summarize this for the folks reading at home: You’re broke and your family’s broke, but you still have big college costs to cover and you don’t see how you’re going to do it. That’s bad.
The good (sort of), however, is that you’re in the same boat as a couple million other college students, so it’s not a new problem, and we’ve figured out some ways to alleviate the costs. You might not like them all, mind you, but they’re here.
1) Go to community college your first two years of school. If you’ve heard it from me once, you’ve heard it 100 times, probably. But that’s because it’s good advice.
In short: wherever you go to school, your first two years of college are going to be spent fulfilling general-education requirements. Those courses are basically the same at community colleges as they are at four-year schools and they usually transfer without any problems — but they cost a fraction of what you’ll pay at a four-year school. So you slash your tuition over the first couple of years by doing that.
Also with community colleges, you don’t have that housing requirement sucking an extra few thousand annual dollars out of your pocket, either. So if you have a community college nearby, you can live at home and save tons of money. Not to mention how pleased Officer Dad will be to have his baby girl laying her head down to sleep a couple rooms over instead of out there who-knows-where in the cruel world. 🙂
I don’t know where you live, but I’m guessing you live somewhere near a community college (everyone seems to). Take the tuition cut plus the absence of room-and-board, and you’re looking at saving at least $20,000 over the first two years, if not closer to $30,000.
2) Use student loans. Yes, it’s better to NOT use student loans if you can avoid it, of course, because debt sucks and it’s good to minimize it. But it doesn’t sound like you have a lot of other options.
And you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority — most students need loans to get through school because, like you, they and/or their parents just don’t have enough liquid cash sitting around to plunk down $15-$50K per year on college.
I’m assuming you didn’t get any federal grant money (Pell Grants, FSEOG grants) since you didn’t mention it. So let’s look at loans. Stafford Loans alone will allow you $5,500 your freshman year ($3,500 subsidized and $2,000 unsubsidized).
Stafford Loans are yours, unsecured (meaning you don’t have to put up any collateral), without regard to your credit. And the rates are low, and the repayment period is extremely flexible.
You won’t get that deal ever again in your life. It’s a special, one-of-a-kind deal for — well, for students and families that are broke but still want to send someone to college.
The Stafford maximum should probably cover all annual expenses at a community college, period, for each of the first two years.
That, Amia, is my best and final answer.
— OK, but what about you guys? Got any non-community college angles for Amia about how she can save money? Let us know in the comments below.