There is a myth running awry in the homes of low to middle income families throughout the United States. Families that spend their entire lives working long hours just to put food on the table, just to decrease the endless pile of bills by one or two disconnect notices are finding out that just getting by doesn’t necessarily mean your children are guaranteed and education.
When I applied for college my senior year in High School I was accepted to just two of my choices. A Feat in itself. What I didn’t realize was that the hard part was right around the corner: Financial Aid. My parents made roughly 34,000 per year so they were considered a low to middle income family. After struggling with just trying to figure out the financial aid process we were faced with the undeniable truth that unless we came up with almost 15,000 on our own there was no way I was attending any school, even the local community college.
You see my parents filed bankruptcy just two years prior to this so my ability to even take out a private loan was out of the question without a worthy co-signer.
I was left to find another path in life. I traveled around aimlessly a bit with friends, venturing to other parts of the country that I had been sheltered from during my youth. My families rarely took vacations, due to the fact that we were just getting by.
In 1998 after coming back home from living as a vagrant in New York City I reapplied to a local college. This time however I applied as an independent. At 21 I was finally able to get financial aid. The problem this time around was I had bills, and lots of them. I was forced, if I wanted to attend, to participate in the work study aid program, attend classes full time as well as work 20 to 30 hours per week outside of my institution just so that I could make MY ends meet.
I lasted one semester.
So again here I sit typing at my desk, back in my hometown and I am 27, a wife and a mother of a two year old beautiful little girl. I work full time at my own cleaning business making squat for money and my husband works full time as well making roughly 32,000/ yr. Sound familiar? Yep, you guessed it, exactly like my parents.
Except we have never filed bankruptcy.
The other main difference is that my husband and I are both college students. He attends a school locally and I attend my institution online which is based out of San Francisco.
We have both been attending for a year and believe me we are lucky to have got this far. Our financial aid alone has only enabled us to attend school half time. Two classes each semester. If you do the math like I have done it will take us almost ten years to obtain a bachelors degree in our fields. Not a very appealing situation for two parents who need to get started on their careers.
This past financial aid cycle found us being able to receive some grant money from Vermont, where we moved a little over a year ago. I, wanting to take four classes needed approximately 4,000 more in aid money to be able to attend as a full time student. The rest of the money is coming from student loans and a small pell grant. My husband needed the same. The big shocker came two days ago when we found out just how much the state was going to give us. My husband 5,000 to attend the local film college. Myself? 1400.00. The reasoning for this huge lack in funding amounts? I was attending an out of state college. Why I can see some difference in amounts being justifiable, it boggled my mind that my husband’s education was worth 75 percent more than mine. Now I am only able to take three classes each semester which will possibly give me a graduation date of 2010, if I am lucky I will be in my chosen field by the time I am 40 years old.
So it makes you wonder sometimes who exactly is looking out for you, certainly not the institutions to which you attend college. Mine for instance has two scholarships, one for students planning on taking their first semester in the summer for which 25 to 75 percent of the tuition is paid and the other for previous graduates wishing to get their masters in education. I couldn’t even imagine if we were trying to get room and board. It would be ridiculous.
So you may ask yourself while reading this, why aren’t we applying for alternative loans? Well we have, we have applied to almost every bank, private lender out there. We have no bankruptcies or repossessions on our records; the mere fact is our income to debt ratio is so out of whack that we cannot be approved for a private loan. So if you’re like us and think that that is your way out, think again.
The best advice I can give on finding money out there is to A: Not buy into those free grant money scams where you pay 20 dollars and supposedly a secret world of free money will be unlocked for you, that just doesn’t exist. B: Do try scholarships, even if you are remotely qualified for it, try anyways. I have only received one to date but you may have better luck than I have and C: Try not to get discouraged, it’s a horrible thing to go through, trying to find this money somewhere. You can always live at home and take one or two classes until you graduate when you are 62.
It’s truly sad that our government does not work the way most others do when it comes to education, health insurance etc. There are countries where if you get a certain grade point average you are automatically funded to go to university. Think of the possibilities that would give the children in this country? But then think of how much money our administration and government would be losing on Federal Student Loan interest (by the way interest rates just went up again). Our government also depends on having poor and low income families to keep the system of balance in check. What would we do if everyone were education beyond a high school degree? There would be no factory workers, no housekeepers, no one to clean our chimney’s, and then “gasp” where would we all be? Well, at least we wouldn’t be starving.