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My wife and I really need some advice. We have a rather unique situation and this requires some background, so please bear with me. I hope that if we can be helped with some answers, others who might have similar circumstances might be helped by the information as well.
I am 45 and have a B.A. in English Literature that I earned 4 years after high school. My final G.P.A. was 3.306. My wife is 38 and has various college certificates that she earned online, which are unfortunately not generally recognized even though she maintained 3.9 and 4.0 grades. After college, I took care of my elderly father full-time for 15 years because he was legally blind from Diabetes and had a lot of other health problems. My wife took care of both of her parents for many years, because her mother had emphysema and her father had congestive heart failure. We were both determined not to see our parents end up in nursing homes. I was not able to hold a job in those years and my wife could not keep one because the employers were not understanding of the times when she had to leave because of a health crisis. In the years since our parents passed away, potential employers have pretty much passed us by when we have submitted applications for employment. The very few exceptions turned out to be unscrupulous types whom we could not stay with once we discovered what was going on. We have tried everything. After the tornado of 4/27/2011, we went down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and volunteered for two months in the disaster recovery effort. We were working on average 12 hours per day every day, including Sundays. In all that time, we took half of one day off and had to be coaxed into doing that, because we were very committed to helping. There is a lot that went on down in Tuscaloosa behind the scenes that you will not hear about in the news media. When the volunteer organization that we were working for closed down their operations, my wife and I and two other very dedicated volunteers were basically given the cold shoulder for all of our efforts, even though a lot of promises had been made about help with employment if we chose to permanently relocate to the community that we had dedicated two months of our lives to help. There are a lot of associated 'horror stories' that we could tell, if there were space and time.
At present, my wife and I are staying with my 85 year old mother, who is the last relative that we have. It is fortunate in a way, because shortly after we arrived she found out that she needed hip replacement surgery and we have been here to help with her needs. But, by the middle of June there is the reasonable expectation that she will be well enough to resume her normal activities. We can not stay. She has a tiny apartment and a fixed income and can not support us, nor would we want her to do so.
My wife and I were forced to sell our own home for a tiny amount in 2010. No income because of no progress with potential employers put tax liens on our house in rapid succession.
We are homeless and this past December our only vehicle gave out and we could not afford to replace it. The most recent Bush administration reconfigured the rules for the national parks such that citizens are not allowed to be on the property for more than 60 days out of 365. The theory is that all homeless people are the same, dirty bums who do not want to work and why should they be a blot on the landscape? State parks are starting to use the federal revision as their guideline as well.
Recently, my wife and I thought that going back to college was the answer. We had both planned to go the necessary 7 years for doctorates in psychology. It seems like a field that is one of the most economy-proof and we are both very interested in the subject. The idea that upon graduation there is the option of eliminating some student loan debt through public service is also very attractive for several reasons. We were also encouraged to discover that student loans do not take personal credit history into consideration, as ours is very poor, due to circumstances that were completely beyond our control.
Right now, we are near Cincinnati, Ohio, and we were interested in attending UC Blue Ash. The problem is, the people whom we have talked with thus far, at the college, have been very disorganized and not as helpful as one would expect. We try to give them the benefit of the doubt, because they are transitioning from quarters to semesters beginning this fall, but it seems like at this time they should be able to give prospective students better information than what we have been receiving. One hand just does not know what the other one is doing and there is a lot of contradictory information.
1) When it comes to financial aid, is it standard practice that the funds other than tuition do not arrive to students until 4 to 6 weeks after classes have begun?!? That does not make a whole lot of sense, when the whole point of financial aid is a need for money to pay for everything, including books, etc.
2) Is it standard practice that you have to go all through the admissions process, including application fees, before you even learn what the dollar amount of your financial aid package will be? UC Blue Ash said it would be 2 to 3 weeks after the application process has been completed. Is it like that everywhere? The extensive time involved, to say nothing of the application fees, would seem to make it very difficult to be able to effectively compare schools and see which one has the package that is most desirable for a student's needs and individual situation.
3) What determines the amount of money that actually comes from the government in the form of a loan? Is that left to the authority of the college? If so, why would that be the case? A 'loan' is something that someone applies for because the person has a dollar amount in mind that is needed to accomplish his or her plans. A college does not know all of the details of someone's life.
4) For people with no income or assets whatsoever, is it likely that the financial aid package would cover the total costs involved? In the case of a husband and wife who are both planning to go to college at the same time, with no income, is the financial aid package for each cut in half simply because the two are married? We would be counting on an adequate amount between the two of us to purchase a cheap car, as inexpensive off-campus housing as possible, and cover other ordinary expenses as well. Would that be likely to be feasible?
Any and all advice, of any kind, would be greatly appreciated. We have put in job applications endlessly, to no avail, even though we have gone to great lengths to fill them out completely and sensibly and offered no scheduling restrictions. In the 'old days' if you really wanted to work, expressed that very strongly, and demonstrated high moral character with volunteer work, etc, someone would have the sense to understand individual 'circumstances.' Sadly, that is no longer the case.
If returning to college does not turn out to be a good option, it looks as if my wife and I are on our way to a homeless shelter somewhere soon. We would prefer to avoid that, but the way things are in this country today we have to face the idea that it might be inevitable.