1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Options for continuing education with inability to take out loans

  1. Jul 2, 2012 #1
    For my first year at community college I was short ~$600 since financial aid didn't cover all my expenses, so when I went to multiple banks to see if I could take out a loan, they all labelled me as a credit liability because I didn't have any credit nor a job at the time. I had to borrow the money from a rather well-off acquaintance and he jokingly told me to pay him back when I got my PhD because he knows I studied hard to go back to school.

    Next year, if I get approximately the same amount of aid as the previous year, worst case scenario I will have to get extremely lucky in finding a job (considering I could not find a job for months before I started school) for several weeks just enough to pay the tuition and then quit the job afterwards. Or I can give up my summer research opportunity and sacrifice polishing up my academic resume for transferring to a 4-year school and just find work to pay off my second year of community college.

    I didn't think I'd have to worry about this until it came to it, but it's been concerning me for a while now...if I cannot get the money up front for even a relatively inexpensive 4-year school and financial aid will not cover me, I guess that means I cannot go to school at all until I search for jobs and work for the next several years (before I began community college, I had been looking for a job for more than half a year before I had enough and decided I needed to go back to school for an advanced degree so I could stabilize my situation better). There are several reasons I want to avoid this, but for the sake of brevity I won't go into it in this post.

    I've also considered working while studying, but the thing is that I am not the sharpest tool in the shed so I am already putting in well between 75-100 hours per week for studies just to maintain a less-than-perfect grades, and I'm afraid if I get a full-time job (assuming minimum wage is $7.25/hr, 40 hrs/wk, 52 wks/yr, I'll have just over $15k/yr to attend school with) my grades will drop tremendously and I won't be accepted into any graduate schools at all, and who knows what I can do an undergraduate Physics degree.

    So my question is for those of you who got through college on your own without any support...how were you able to maintain a high GPA and get into a good graduate school? I don't see too many options right now. If I could just somehow get the loans, I wouldn't even mind being in debt, even if it was a terrible interest rate. I'm confident that I'll be able to get a decent-paying job post-graduate school, and if I can comfortable live on $10k/yr (as I've done for the past several years), then I think I'll do fine if I can just finish school somehow.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 2, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I have a few suggestions.

    First, you may want to get in touch with your school's student job centre and speak with someone who works there. It sounds to me like you've spent a lot of time looking for a job without much success and so you might benefit from someone assessing your job hunting methods.

    Over the school year try to find a position where you work only the hours you can afford - say one or two nights a week. In addition to conventional jobs, you could also consider tutoring, for example. This can help to reinforce basic skills, give you valuable experience in communication and teachin and allow you to set hours that work for you.

    Start your summer job hunt early - like in the preceeding fall. Paying for school comes before research experience (because if you can't finish undergrad you're not going to make it to graduate school). If you're lucky you can find a balance and get paid for a research position, but don't count on this. If you're not getting experience that you can build on, go for the fattest paycheque possible. And remember, research experience can be a fourth year thesis project that you get credit for - so you don't need to spend a summer volunteering your time to get it.
  4. Jul 2, 2012 #3
    Do you happen to know if many schools in the U.S. are lenient towards receiving payment before the semester begins?

    For example:

    If a school costs about a reasonable $20,000/year, and financial aid covers maybe half of that (I don't know how accurate that is, but the calculation of the estimates on the FAFSA site always seem wrong), I still need to come up with $5,000 per semester and on mininum wage that's approximately 700 hours of work per semester, which is a full-time 40 hours/week in a single semester (given 16 weeks in a semester).

    If the school will allow me to take courses while I pay off the semester, I will have to work full-time whilst studying, but if they won't let me in before paying the full cost of attendance first, I'm wondering if there's anything else I can do.

    If I actually get into a decent school, I'm sure it'll cost probably twice as much, which I don't mind if it all goes to debt, but if I can't find money to borrow to go into debt that'll be an issue...I'll have to work for the next decade just to get my bachelor's from a decent school. I don't know if that'll be detrimental to my graduate school applications, and I don't know if I have the patience to flip burgers for 10 years just to get a start in a proper career.
  5. Jul 2, 2012 #4
    Have you checked to see if your community college has a fee waiver? Here in California they have the BOGFW. If you demonstrate financial need, which I'm sure you could, then they will waive your class fees. The only thing I have to pay is some registration fee (I believe $10-15 per semester).

    Also, my school has a tutoring center. If you get A's in classes (especially math or science) then you're eligible to tutor there. It is a paid position (minimum wage) and you can work whatever hours you choose (that are available).

    I know you said you have a summer research opportunity. Is it unpaid? You may, in the future, wish to look into REU's. Some have pretty generous stipends and cover a lot of the costs, if not all.

    You could also try applying to scholarships online or see if there are any opportunities at the financial aid office of you CC.
  6. Jul 2, 2012 #5
    Yes, my school doesn't offer anything like that. The only waiver I got was the application fee to apply for the school. On top of the tuition, they also charge mandatory miscellaneous fees which add up to a couple hundred extra dollars (supposed to include internet access, student council fees or something, extracurricular activities, etc.). But anyway, they outright told me that if I could not pay the tuition in full up front before the semester began, that I have to drop my classes immediately, period.

    I will have to look into paid tutoring as well.

    The two research projects I have available for me at myschool are both unpaid. They are actually class courses, but do not provide any (meaningful) credit. Basically it is purely for experience/transfer college application fluff, which I would like to have. I was planning to apply to REUs when I transferred to my 4-year college.

    Is there any way I can raise my credit fast so I can take out bank loans? Or get a credit card or several of them and charge my tuition to all of them so I can pay them off after I finish my PhD?
  7. Jul 2, 2012 #6
    I noticed you've mentioned minimum wage jobs a few times and I'm wondering if those are the only jobs you are applying for. What type of work have you applied for? What kind of job skills do you have already have? Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a job at a call center. Most call centers (that I've seen) pay more than minimum wage and they are usually hiring (because of the high turnover rate). Some call centers are even open 24 hours a day, so you will be able to work full time and go to school.
  8. Jul 2, 2012 #7
    True that on the call centers. I've known a few people who worked at a tech support call center for computers back in Florida. They made pretty good money (right out of highschool) and seemed to have flexible schedules.

    There are also education loans (like Sallie Mae) and federal loans. You could have someone (parents?) cosign on the loan with you since you don't have credit. I did this when I first went to college a few years ago. I highly recommend doing whatever you can to not take out loans, though.
  9. Jul 2, 2012 #8
    Something else I recommend you look into is if the community college you are attending has a Phi Theta Kappa (community college honor society) chapter. If you meet the requirements, I would definitely recommend joining. Being a member gives you access to collegefish.org (this site has a great deal of information on colleges and available scholarships). You may qualify for some of those scholarships now.
  10. Jul 3, 2012 #9
    good luck
  11. Jul 3, 2012 #10
    Pretty much anything that doesn't require any experience nor skills. I don't have any job skills, so I've just been applying to entry-level positions in retail, fast food, etc. I'm limited to areas of walking distance because I have no mode of transportation except public trans, and that costs money ($104/mnth for unlimited bus/subway, $1,248/yr which is a huge chunk).

    Do you know where I can search for these types of jobs? I've pretty much been going door-to-door and filling out applications in my local area. I guess I can study and work full time, but that means I will literally be sleeping only 1-2 hours per day and I've never done that before so I don't know how I'll hold out.

    I don't know anyone who would cosign for me, but I honestly don't see anything so bad about taking out loans. As far as post-graduate job prospects go, glazing over some average incomes, even if I go into $100,000 debt and I make $50k/yr, if I continue to follow the economical lifestyle I've lived my entire life, I could pay all that off in less than a few years which doesn't sound so bad to me.

    Yes, our school does have a Phi Theta Kappa chapter! I am currently ineligible, but next semester I will be (due to the minimum number of credits I haven't met). Thanks for this suggestion.
  12. Jul 3, 2012 #11
    Most job postings (and applications for employment) are going to be online. In addition to checking sites like careerbuilder and monster, consider checking the classifieds in your local newspapers (your newspapers should have an online component). Call center jobs are usually listed as customer service representatives.

    Another consideration (and I understand it's not for everyone) is joining the military. In addition to work experience, you'll also be eligible for education benefits.

    Btw, I'm a member of Phi Theta Kappa and I served 12 years in the Marine Corps (so I know the benefits of both).
  13. Jul 3, 2012 #12
    To the first question, no, you cannot raise your credit score fast. For loans, they check both your credit score and income coming in. In my experience, great credit will cause them to overlook low income but not vice versa. Is there someone who can co sign a loan for you?

    Regarding the second idea, that is HORRIBLE idea. Let me say again, HORRIBLE!!! The types of credit cards that will be available to you have insane interest rates and all kinds of fees attached. In addition, the interest will compound and the limit will be low. This means you'd be forced to get many of them which would mean more fees and more interest. They also expect a certain amount to be paid every month. If you have 5 maxed out CCs with 500 dollar limits you could be looking at paying hundreds of dollars a month for nothing but interest. DO NOT DO THIS. Realistically, you will bankrupt yourself.

    On a more positive, if no one is contributing to your education and you are making no money, then your EFC should be 0 which means you should be eligible for 10500 dollars in federal loans (which is awarded regardless of credit score) and 5500 (or so) from the Pell Grant. This should more than cover community college. Universities seem to give out more money for low income than high achievement so you should be able to get even more money there.

    There is lots of money available for paying for college. Avoid quick fixes and schemes and seek out legitimate ways to pay. They are there. Good luck!
  14. Jul 3, 2012 #13
    Have you looked into Pell grants? http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fpg/index.html

    If you have family that is or was military, sometimes there is money from the local VFW Post, American Legion Post (if family belongs), etc.

    Some colleges have private scholarships for people from "X" state, or in a specific major.

    Obviously, there is the option of trading military service (National Guard, etc.) for an education. I know a lot of folks that went that route.
  15. Jul 3, 2012 #14


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Make sure you do the math on this one. For some reason people will look at those numbers and think "oh, will I could pay that off in a little more than 2 years." But if you're grossing $50k, how much of that will disappear as taxes? (Hint 50%.) That puts you at ~ 4 years to pay off the priniciple, if it collects no interest and you do nothing but pay off your student loan. More realistically you'll have to eat, live somewhere, and figure out a reliable mode of transportation, if you're American I'm sure health insurance factors in somewhere and maybe you'll even start making some retirement investments so you don't end up back at square one when you retire. And that's if you live a bachelor(ette) life. Hence, you're realistically looking at a decade or more in terms of a financial committment
  16. Jul 3, 2012 #15
    Do you know where I can get information about this military stuff? Especially if there's any fine print, because I'm pretty paranoid about going off to the military because I'm pretty weak-hearted. Not sure if they'd even let me in.

    I understand "a few years" is probably a bit optimistic, but I checked the federal tax brackets and it doesn't seem like half of your income (as single). Maybe I'm reading the information incorrectly. In any case, if I can work a job I love for the rest of my life, then I don't think I'd care about even being in a lifetime of debt, since I don't really care for much else.
  17. Jul 3, 2012 #16
    Before I answer your question, I have a few for you:

    1. Are you an American citizen (I'm not familiar with the procedures for enlisting in a foreign military)?

    2. How old are you?

    3. What exactly do you mean when you say that you are weak hearted?
  18. Jul 4, 2012 #17
    Yes, I am an American-born citizen and 24 years of age. Physically/mentally I don't have any diagnosed ailments, but that may simply be because I haven't gotten a thorough checkup in a while. Just that I am pretty much terrified of physical altercation or even the thought of being around firearms. I get paranoid that they might accidentally go off and kill me or something. I'm pretty weak in general, but that may be because I haven't eaten much most of my life.
  19. Jul 4, 2012 #18
    It appears the military may not be for you.

    Btw, firearms don't accidentally fire (especially if all safety precautions are taken). What people normally refer to as accidental shootings, are actually negligence.
  20. Jul 5, 2012 #19
    I think that's what I'm concerned about...the next guy over being irresponsible and this happening. In any case, is there no other option in the military besides "physical" training? Such as working with computers and research in labs? Or do those kinds of work require a degree first?
  21. Jul 5, 2012 #20
    You won't get out of the physical training, but there are electronics, geek type jobs, etc. in the military that don't require you to go out and shoot things. My brother-in-law worked in engineering construction (ECB) and the service engineers that work on our accelerators are mostly ex-military radar or missile fire control technicians. My other "almost" brother-in-law taught SEER training. He did his 20 years, retired (at 40), and now doing the same thing for a lot more money as a contractor. The Navy paid my dads way through college and law school. These days you sign a contract with the military for training/job. As far as "the next guy over being irresponsible", that's a potential issue in any job. If you perceive yourself weak, the military will fix that. I’ve had some friends go through some amazing transformations. They'll teach you team work, a career, and many very useful skills. If you go that route, go in with your eyes open but forget the preconceived notions. Meet with a recruiter, talk to people doing what you would like to do, etc. Like any job, do you due diligence.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook