Distant parents + manipulative grandmother = cry for financial help

<p>Warning in advance: this story is long.</p>

<p>My cousin is in an impossible situation when it comes to college finances and could desperately use some help. Her mother is struggling with a mental illness, has no income, and moved to the other side of the country in search of a more temperate climate. Her father (my dad's brother) works several states away and wants to help his daughter, but he is, unfortunately, unwilling take out a PLUS loan or any other type of loan for her. Consequently, her maternal grandmother, who apparently has quite a bit of money, paid for my cousin's first year at a directional state university a couple of hours from their home. </p>

<p>My cousin passed all but one of her classes her first year, but she's always been an average student and her grandmother apparently expected that to change once she hit college. Because of my cousin's average grades, her grandmother told her that she wanted my cousin to move in with her mother and attend a college out of state. Because of her mother's illness, there's a lot of tension and animosity between my cousin and her mother, so she does not wish to take up her grandmother's plan. It doesn't help that the college near my aunt's house doesn't offer the course of study my cousin wishes to pursue. When my cousin told her grandmother, in no uncertain terms, that there was no way she was going to move in with her mother, the grandmother said that she would not pay one cent more toward my cousin's college unless my cousin did as the grandmother wanted. No one has any reason to believe that the grandmother is making idle threats, as she's long been manipulating my uncle and his two daughters via finances. </p>

<p>My cousin, in turn, told her father that if her grandmother did force her out of state, she would "just leave" or "just drop out" and drive the 1,000+ miles home. He believes that she would be true to her word and this would be disastrous. </p>

<p>Classes are set to start at Directional State University in a few weeks, and my cousin desperately wants to go back there in hopes of graduating in 2014. However, given her academic record, she has no scholarships to speak of and, despite working two jobs this summer, very modest savings, so the bill for the first semester is the full cost of ~$8,750. I don't know if she's even filled out the FAFSA or if government loans would be dispersed in time to pay the bill. Even if she did manage to secure a Stafford loan in such a short time, she'd be at least $6,000 short for the first semester alone. </p>

<p>I understand that she could pursue private student loans, but, given their reputation, I'm wary of recommending that to her. I don't want her to be cheated or straddled with a bill she could never repay. </p>

<p>My uncle has asked my dad and me for help. What can I recommend to my cousin to help her make the best of this situation and get back to Directional State University?</p>

<p>There are no magic money trees out there. She probably needs to take the semester off to work and save money so she can afford tuition.</p>

<p>Private student loans aren't even an option, as they require either collateral or a cosigner, neither of which your cousin has access to.</p>

<p>It sounds like the Directional State University is not affordable for her. She can not take out private loans w/o a cosigner and I do not recommend it. Nor should parents, as a general rule of thumb, take out loans to pay a child's tuition--the father's reluctance is probably well founded in that he can not afford it if he would have to resort to taking out loans. He needs to work on his own bills, and even more importantly, his own retirement. Btw, I agree that it is a bad idea for the daughter to move in with her mentally ill mother.</p>

<p>So on to Plan B. I suggest working a year or two and moving to a town with an inexpensive community college. She should get very familiar with how FAFSA and student loans work so that when she does go back to college, she has an actual financial plan. She may have to work fulltime and attend college parttime. And finally, urge your cousin to do the financial footwork and have her post her story and her questions here so that she can take charge of gathering the information herself.</p>

<p>If she doesn't want to go the community college route, she can look for a job in the town where her university is located, find a place to live, and study part-time. After she has a bit of work experience under her belt, she should try to find a position at the university itself so that she can take advantage of any tuition benefits that university offers its employees.</p>

<p>Thanks for the advice, all. I was thinking of suggesting that community college and work route to her. There's a branch of a community college next door to one of the places she works, so that might be convenient for her. She could at least take some gen ed courses and maybe live with a friend of hers who has an apartment just down the hill, since living with her grandmother is obviously not going to be an option if my cousin doesn't go along with the grandmother's plan. </p>

<p>I really like your suggestion, happymom. She's supposed to call my family in the next few days to talk about this, so I'll see if we can price out some apartments in Directional State University's town that might be in her price range. Her sister is a year ahead of her at DSU, so they might be able to move in together and split rent costs. </p>

<p>Looks like there are two very viable options here. Thank you all again for the suggestions. I hope to report back (or have her report back!) soon with good news.</p>

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However, given her academic record, she has no scholarships to speak of and, despite working two jobs this summer, very modest savings, so the bill for the first semester is the full cost of ~$8,750. I don't know if she's even filled out the FAFSA or if government loans would be dispersed in time to pay the bill. Even if she did manage to secure a Stafford loan in such a short time, she'd be at least $6,000 short for the first semester alone.

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<p>It sounds as if the last parent she lived with was her mother...is that right? Ask her if she filed FAFSA and, if so, what her EFC was. If she has not filed, she should do so right away! If she happens to be eligible for a full Pell grant, that would provide her with a grant of $2775/semester. If she has sophomore standing, she would be eligible for $6,500 in Stafford loans for the year and Stafford loans generally are processed very quickly. That would get her pretty close to covering the billable charges. Does her state of residence offer any student aid programs? It's likely that would require a FAFSA filing too.</p>