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Serious Advice Needed

DBanner1DBanner1 Posts: 13Registered User New Member
Hello,

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.

Questions:

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.

Thanks

David
Post edited by DBanner1 on
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Replies to: Serious Advice Needed

  • lerkinlerkin Posts: 1,428Registered User Senior Member
    David,

    I am sorry to hear of your circumstances. There are others who are much more versed in the Financial aid than I am. They will chime in with all your options.

    However, since you already have Bachelors degree, than you might want to apply to graduate program instead of obtaining another Bachelors degree first.

    Depending on the program you apply to, you might get the entire tuition paid for and receive stipend in exchange for being a TA or RA. Depending on what you studied as an undergrad, the grad program might not be psychology program, but it might be in a related field. I really encourage you to look into graduate school option first. I understand it will not happen for this academic year, but it might happen for the next.

    Also, if you are really desperate for money, then please PM a poster here called mimi. He or she always talks about lack of people doing some kind farming work every summer. It will be a hard work, but from what I understand it pays really well (I think $20-25 per hour). It will not be a long term solution, but will allow you to earn some income and set aside some money for fall and maybe buy a vehicle.

    I hope it will work out for you and your wife.
  • vienneselightsvienneselights Posts: 411Registered User Member
    So You Want to Go to Grad School? - Advice - The Chronicle of Higher Education

    I'm sorry to hear about your circumstances, but what gave you the idea that a psych phd is economy-proof?
  • annikasorrensenannikasorrensen Posts: 1,487Registered User Senior Member
    I am not an expert on this by any means but I believe it may be difficult to get accepted into a PHD program with your giant gaps of education and employment--they will want to know what you have been doing for the past 20 or so years. Meaning, a 7 year PHD program is not a place to "hide out" from the economy on the backs of public and private student loans... And if you did get accepted and earn a PHD (not everyone who enters manages to finish), employment could be just as difficult, but this time with mountains of graduate loans.

    I would make sure to find out

    1) what happens to loan forgiveness programs if one or both of you fail to finish your PHD
    2) are the loan forgiveness/work programs guaranteed employment or competitive? will they exist in 7 years from now when you need them?
    3) what are the graduation rates for the PHD program at your college? drop out rates? Completion rates (some students take 10+ years, but run out of funding first)

    My concern also is that you are having a hard time leveraging what you have right now for even modest employment--and it sounds like you haven't held paid employment the majority of your adulthood. Taking care of your parent/s is noble, but it does mean you are potentially out of step with how to market yourself in the work force. I don't know this for certain of course, having only read a single post of yours, but I sense that what you'd benefit most strongly from is some sort of career guidance that helped you (and your wife) reinvent yourself based on your skills for the work force _now_ without having to take out 100K in student loans and 7 fulltime years of college to get a PHD.

    The economy is tough, but I have friends reinventing themselves all the time. A friend of mine in his late 50s with a science degree from UC Berkeley who couldn't get rehired in his particular field anymore after a layoff. He recently reinvented himself as a math tutor for high school students... and started a small company of other highly qualified tutors. 6 - 8 employees and he's paying the bills. He didn't have to go back to grad school for 7 years to make money.

    I wish you luck. But right now, I am not sure this PHD plan is really in your best interest.
  • WaverlyWaverly Posts: 2,669Registered User Senior Member
    I have to agree the plan seems unrealistic. PhD programs in psych are extremely hard to get into and the field is anything but recession proof. The funded programs will look for you to have extensive research experience.

    While it seems like you've had a rough time, I think grad programs will have a hard time understanding why you had zero time to work or advance your situation in any way.

    And no, you can not assume aid will cover everything. Most colleges will not meet your financial need.

    Good luck.
  • EastCoastGirl715EastCoastGirl715 Posts: 125Registered User Junior Member
    Hi,

    I'm very sorry to hear about your circumstances.

    If you and your wife are interested in psychology and human services, and want a career with stability in almost any economy, I would highly recommend that you look into earning a master's degree in social work. This degree will take much less time to complete (two years or under), and there are plenty of jobs in a variety of settings that look for licensed master's-level social workers. If you want to provide mental health counseling, you certainly can do so with this degree. You can also work in non-profit organizations, hospitals, schools, the court system, private practice, etc. Social workers don't make tons of money, but the salaries are certainly good enough for a middle class life, depending on where you live.

    This might be the best use of your time and resources.

    Good luck!
  • EastCoastGirl715EastCoastGirl715 Posts: 125Registered User Junior Member
    David,

    Another thought I had was a fast-track teacher training program for people in midlife. Since you have a bachelor's degree, I would imagine that you could participate in one of these programs and become a certified teacher in less than two years. I believe many of these programs are very low cost - or even free - and simply require that you work with an underserved population for a couple of years.

    I know this is not psychology, but you sound like someone with a "helper" personality who might very well enjoy a life of working with - and mentoring - young people who are struggling with their own life circumstances.
  • DBanner1DBanner1 Posts: 13Registered User New Member
    My wife and I have read that because psychology is such a diverse field, with applications in so many different areas, there are more jobs available, even in a poor economy, than there are in many other fields.

    It was our thought to approach the plan in steps. Get an associate's degree (UC Blue Ash only offers a two-year degree, for example) in pre-psychology and upon graduation after those two years take a look at the job picture at that point before further proceeding. The same after completion of a bachelor's if that were the decision. We read that there are jobs available at every level and that it would be a matter of determining what was or was not feasible or a good fit at the time. That should eliminate the notion that our plan was just to sail all the way through phd and all the debt load with no other ideas whatsoever.

    I do not mind 'starting over from scratch' in college. In some ways, I feel that transferring credits that I earned over 20 years ago would not only be taking an easy way out but could end up being detrimental in other ways, not only to me but also to people whom I would intend on helping in the field of psychology. I have decent retention and I have always been a voracious reader over a broad spectrum of subjects, but so many things have changed so much over the course of the past 20 years that I believe that a fresh start is the right thing to do.

    My wife and I are very much alike in that, among other things, we both have a passion for knowledge. From a motivational standpoint, there is no question that if we begin an education program we will most definitely finish it. That only leaves the unforeseen, such as illness, accident, etc. But then again, all of life is a gamble. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    Farm work? That certainly grabs my attention! I am an old farm boy from way back! My dad had a 6 acre poultry farm as a little side business to supplement his main career, and neighbors had cows and horses, so I am very familiar with all of that healthy outdoor work. I thrive on it! I am very thankful to be in excellent health for someone my age. I look about 10 years younger, when I keep the white whiskers shaven. :-) Sometimes, tough times on the one hand can help you on the other. For three years, my wife and I could not afford a car. I walked everywhere in order to put in job applications and run errands that needed to be done. I've been known to walk 45 miles round trip in one day when needed. I try to look on the bright side of life, no matter what comes along. I live by the philosophy that, 'Every day above ground is a good day.'

    If someone has a little more information on how to get in touch with that person, I would appreciate it. Depending on where it is, getting there might be a bit of an issue. But as long as I can walk, time is all that would be required....'Forrest Gump' is one of my favorite movies. ;-)

    David
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Posts: 6,521Registered User Senior Member
    To answer your questions specifically:

    1) Federal student loans are paid directly to the college. After the college has used the funds to pay off any direct costs (tuition, fees, mandatory health insurance), any amount remaining is refunded to the student. How long the refunding takes is highy school dependent, but will usually occur sometime after classes have begun. It could be as little as 1 week or as long as 8-10 weeks.

    The whole point of FA is not to "pay everything", but to pay tuition.

    2) Yes, it's standard practice that a student must first be accepted into a college before FA is calculated. There's no point for a college's FA office to calculate how much aid a student will recieve unless there's a reasonable chance the student will attend that school. A student will not be attending unless he is first accepted. If you want to compare FA packages among various schools, you must first apply and be accepted to those schools.

    3) There are numerous federal regulations which govern how much federal student aid you can recieve. As an independent student enrolled in an undergrad second degree program, you will eligible for a maximum direct student loan of $12,500/year OR the amount of your school's annual cost of attendance--whichever is less. Because you already have a degree, you will not be eligible for any federal or state grant aid.

    Remember the money goes to the school first to pay the school's direct costs. You will not be refunded the full amount of the loan, only what's leftover.

    In addition to federal student loans, you or your wife may qualify for some work-study or a Perkins loan IF your student loans does not cover the full COA of your college. However, neither of those are guaranteed and indeed are not available at all colleges.

    ~~~~~

    Have you contacted your state workforce development office? These offices offer job skills training, resume development, job hunt skills and other support services. All at no cost.

    Also some public libraries offer free training in writing resumes and applying for jobs online.
  • somemomsomemom Posts: 9,275Registered User Senior Member
    One thought about immediate job opportunties: You have years of caregiver experience, if you were not paid an hourly wage, you may have been 'paid' with room & board & some cash, you can list that. You can list that on a resume as senior caregivers, you may also find jobs right away in that field, whether in a nursing home or as a home caregiver for a service. So many people's parents are aging now and need daily help to remain in their homes, it seems there should be an opportunity in nearly any town.
  • somemomsomemom Posts: 9,275Registered User Senior Member
    I would strongly recommend you NOT go back for a second bachelor's on student loans, there is no guarantee you will get into either grad school or get a job with a psych degree. You could be looking at 4 years for a BA + 5=8 years at a PhD.
  • EastCoastGirl715EastCoastGirl715 Posts: 125Registered User Junior Member
    I agree with Somemom. Take what you already have and build on it. Many people go back to school and earn graduate degrees after having been out of college and the workforce for many years. If you do want to go back and get a bachelor's degree, it would probably be a good idea if you studied something that could land you a job with relative ease upon graduation, such as teaching or nursing.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 24,893Registered User Senior Member
    You already have a bachelors degree which means that you would only be eligible for loans. If you have taken out any loans previously for college, they will count towards a cap. You can only take out what is left, in those amounts. So you need to add up what you have taken in federal loans when you were in college and see where you are. Bring that info to the financial aid office of the college that interests you and see what there is available to you.

    For your wife, again, it depends on how much she has used in terms of federal aid, and when she took it. Again, she needs to put to get a list and sit with an aid officer and see what she has left. I believe she might have some grants and loans left it's been a while since she has been to school.

    That will give you both an idea as to how much in funds the two of you can get in Pell grants and Stafford loans, subsidized and not. Be aware that those loans are yet another monkey on your back and a troublesome beast he can indeed be.

    Applying to college and getting registered is not a cheap process. In a word, yes. Yes, you need money to get all the documents for your applications. You might be able to get some fees waived for financial hardship. However, the money for books, living expenses, tuition, anything, does not generally appear for a few weeks depending on the school. The school gets first dibs on all that goes into the account and will pay all tuition, fees, etc out of that. Also you only get 1/2 of the award for the first semester in a 2 semester school year, and you have to wait for the second term before you get your second installment.

    I don't known where you got the idea that psychology has a lot of jobs available. Yes, a psychology degree does have a lot of applications, just as an English degree does, but finding a good paying job is very difficult. When my son graduated from our state U, there were more P majors (psychology, philosophy and political science) than all the rest of the majors put together. That does not bode well for finding jobs in this climate. Where you are most likely to find jobs is to get technical training in some skill like medical billing, operating medical equipment, that sort of thing.

    Since you helped your mother in a time of need, you may want to stay with her just long enough to find a room for yourself and wife after saving enough money from a job. Even at minimum wage, with the two of you working even part time, you can find enough for a room, and there are usually a number of such situations in a student "ghetto". With all of the caretaking experience you two have had, you have good prospects of finding something in nursing homes and other care facilities. The pay is low, but once you get your foot in the door, you may find opportunities for a live in job. Many of these places prefer a married couple to take charge that way, so you would have an advantage that way. While you do that, you can start slowly earning a certificate that will get you into a field where the demand is high and pay is pretty good. You need those odds to be on your side in finding a job with a true living wage.

    I'm sorry it's a rough road this way. I know many people, who are in a similar situation. I was in the world of childhood cancer for a number of yeas when my child was diagnosed. Many families chose to drop everything and focus on the care and cure of their children. Some of those children had years of intense treatment at St Judes and other locales and there is a great safety net for such families. You can live at St Jude, for instance, completely for free, while your child is in treatment. Many families turned their entire lives over to that cause, and when the time came that the child was deemed done with treatment or died, they had no place to go , no job, nothing. That transition was harrowing, and though most swear they would not have done it differently, they paid a very high price for those years of being out of the job field. The same goes with caring for elderly parents or anyone. The time so spent is not going to help you in finding high paying jobs, for the most part. But caretaking does have a lot of vacant positions as people do not like doing that work and the pay is poor, so you and your wife will be able to find something with your resumes. Just not what you would want in terms of pay and future.
  • Charlie87starCharlie87star Posts: 172Registered User Junior Member
    My post is very short, but about the application, the majority of schools have fee waivers for applications that you can apply for (I think you just send in a tax return or something) and ten you wouldn't have to pay for that. Also, when someone receives financial aid, it usually is enough for tuition and mandatory fees, maybe room and board, but I doubt it would be enough to get a car, or it would at least take a while to save that much, usually the school will just give just barely enough to live off of if they give you past the tuition. Good luck! Also, you could try and get work study when at the school that you end up at
  • DBanner1DBanner1 Posts: 13Registered User New Member
    We have been to 'workforce' employment offices in several states, as a matter of fact. The problem is not with inability to come up with an effective resume or inability to 'reinvent' ourselves as necessary. It's the lack of perceived work history and lack of references. One of those facilities told us that it was perfectly legitimate to list 'life experiences' on a resume. While that might be fine in theory, in practice it has not helped at all. Personnel managers....excuse me, human resource specialists....are becoming quite extreme these days, as we see with the delving into personal credit, Facebook accounts, etc, as criteria in the hiring process. The latest madness is that various employers are not wanting to hire people who don't already have jobs. Not so long ago, the reverse was true....if someone who had a job was out job hunting, the idea was that if they were not satisfied with their current job how long could they be expected to be satisfied with the next one....and so on.

    While my wife and I were taking care of our parents, we also did small jobs for other elderly people in our respective neighborhoods. Those people would have been able to attest to our character. Unfortunately, those people have all passed away over the years as well, so we have no references. Several of the companies that my wife worked for have since gone out of business. Several other employers whom we both worked for turned out to be so dishonest that even by naming them on a resume there is a very real possibility that they will lie and say that we never even worked there. It is truly that bad. Where possible, we notified appropriate authorities about wrongdoing, but for the most part others had done the same before us (as we later found out), but legal maneuvering back and forth kept things tied up for years and little justice was done.

    When we did the volunteer work in Alabama, we thought that we would at least come away from that with some references as to the dedicated work that we did. Not so. Not in our case, nor in the case of the other two dedicated volunteers whom I mentioned in my first post. The problem there was that at the head of the volunteer organization was a group of people who sat around and dictated but did no work themselves. They could not be bothered to 'get their hands dirty.' But, they were right out in front to claim credit as if they had. It was amazing to see, not that 'amazing' is the best word. They would struggle with each other for power to see who was going to be in control over the ordinary volunteers and sit around drinking beer while they were doing that. These were the attorneys, insurance men, and other 'pillars of the community,' male and female. The ordinary volunteers were there to help the victims. The ones at the head of it all were only there to pat themselves on the back and grab the media spotlight. And they did a lot of it. Like I said, there are a ton of stories that the media has never told accurately or in many cases at all.

    There is a senior assisted living facility just a few hundred feet from here. My wife and I could not even get jobs there to distribute food. And the manager there is so rude and condescending that you have to wonder about the quality of life for the residents.

    Typical.

    David
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 24,893Registered User Senior Member
    The maximum dollar amount an undergrad with junior or senior standing can borrow for the year is $12,500, of which a maximum of $5500 is subsidized. The total amount of Staffords an undergrad can have is $57,500. I do not know if there are grandfather rules in all of this that gives OP and/or wife some exceptions. So if your wife has not borrowed at all, and gets junior standing with her credits, she can borrow $12500 for the year. She would get about $6250 for the first term, with origination fees taken out as well as the tuition, fees, insurance (if you don't have your own) and whatever else the school charges. That health insurance will take a hefty bite if you don't have any. Where it might be possible is if she is still eligible for PELL since that is free money, and with a zero EFC, she could get up to $5550 there if she is full time, and if the cost of attendance justifies it with living expenses, PELL plus Staffords can make a nice dent in getting things rolling. You will not be eligible for PELL under any circumstances since you have a bachelors already. You would only possibly be able to get loans if you have not used up your maximums.

    But, yes, theoretically, it could work if neither of you have used up your eligibility for federal funds and the Cost of Attendance caluculations work out. Up to $5550 in PELL for your wife plus the max of $12500 in loans for her plus $12500 in loans for you. Those are MAXIMUM POSSIBILITIES, not certainties and depend on what you have borrowed and used before, which is why you need to track all of that back and sit with a fin aid officer to see what you can expect to get. Even if you can get a windfall this way, I really caution you to look for skill dependent courses of study where there is known demand, good pay out there. Psychology or any general degree ain't gonna do it, unless you win the lottery.
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