Want to go back to school – not eligible for financial aid Hot Conversation

OK ladies: here’s one that I REALLY need help with. I want to go back to school. I ran around NY today getting my transcripts from my old schools and medical documents and such. I filed the FASFA forms last night and got the results back today. It turns out I made too much money to qualify for pell grants. I can’t believe I made too much money – but that’s what I was told. Now – where do I go from there? I was really depending on those grants because I don’t have the financial resources to go back to school as I am unemployed and have been collecting unemployment since March of this year. Is there anything else I can do? If finding a job and working my way through college were the answer, I wouldn’t be on unemployment – so finding another job is out. If there is another solution, please let me know. Thanks so much for your help.

Posted in work & money.

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13 Responses

  1. Generic Image Colorado Chic says

    Boy, do I hear ‘ya! I was also on unemployment and couldn’t get help for anything because I made “too much” money. What a laugh! Anyway, I was so sick of the hassle that I got a job making waaaay too little money, but at least now I’m considered employed (or, under-employed) and will now be eligible for financial aid and able to go back to school. I may lose my house, but I can’t live like that any more.

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  2. Generic Image nadieo says

    I am currently looking for financial aid to support returning to school, have been on unemployment since March with no luck of finding employment.  I have been doing some online searches for financial aid for women over 50.  You may be able to get a combination of loan/scholarship/grant.  Don’t forget to check the financial aid department at the school you will be attending.

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  3. zblair zblair says

    You can get Stafford Loans, but dependent upon your income and when you apply for the loans will determine how much you get. Check with the Financial Aid office of the school/program you wish to attend but the rule of thumb I’ve used is to fill out the FAFSA as soon as the form online becomes available which is usually sometime in January/February.

    This is CRITICAL because X amount of dollars are released and the longer you wait, the less chance you have of securing funds. You did not say if this was for an undergraduate or graduate degree, but there are lots of scholarships you can apply for. Go to Fastweb.com or collegeboards.com and fill out the questionnaires and you should receive a list to begin with.

    I graduated from high school in 1976 and am 51 years old. Because of the career path I’ve taken in the past, I began going for my undergraduate degree in 1977 and finally graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in May 2008. So I know of what I speak. (attending grad school beginning next year).

    Over the course of years there have been more funds available for adult students but you have to be diligent in your search for them and also vigilant in applying for them. You did not mention what field of study you wish to go into, but no matter the field you could probably volunteer for Vista or Americorp for a year and then receive not only a stipend but funds to apply toward your tuition when you are done. Check out this link:


    BTW, I worked full time during the majority of my studies until I had to attend to day classes and then I went part time during the school year and full time during breaks and summers from 2006 until 2008. It can be done, but I will say it takes a lot more energy than it used to :D

    I actually have a new part time job I just hired into recently that will carry me through grad school. I can’t tell you how NICE it is to get a job that has to do with my field of study and pays relatively well. Getting that degree made a difference in my case.

    Good Luck!



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    • persimian persimian says

      Ablair:  You are a Godsend.  I have checked out the sites you recommended.  Collegeboards is down for maintenance, but Fastweb was amazing.  I filled out the questionnaire like you said and it appears I am qualified for several grants.  I also aved the ed.gov site you recommended to my favorites and will go over it completely to make sure I don’t miss anything!!!  I also called Berkeley (the school I want to attend) and they are going to have their financial aide department call me today to set up an appointment to go over other prospects.  They couldn’t do it yesterday because the department was having a meeting.  I did fill out the FAFSA form – they are the ones who told me I made too much money last year to qualify.  If all elsel fails, I will fill the form out again next year because the classes I want to take don’t start until January and if I have to wait until spring 2010 I will and in the meantime I’ll keep looking for a job.  I have an Associate’s degree in Office Administration, but it appears in order to get a job in this job market (with my age), you need a bachelors and that’s a 4 year program that I really can’t afford.  On top of which – at my age, I don’t have much patience for the stress entailed in dealing with stupidity and office politics.  I decided to get an Associate’s in Medical Billing because then I can work from home at my own pace.  I am going to keep trying and I will DEFINITELY keep you appraised of my progress.  Thanks again for all your advice.

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  4. Generic Image nadieo says

    Thanks, Zblair.  I’m checking out the financial aid info today.  I’m applying to graduate school and not sure how I will be financing it.  Persimian, good luck with Berkeley.  I’m in the Bay Area and the job hunt has been disappointing.  I’m taking a class at the community college to get my brain back in academic mode.  I’m hoping to get into ASU for a particular graduate program, while my husband is moving to Nevada to start a new business.  These are challenging times and I hope I’m up to the challenge.

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  5. zblair zblair says

    YAY Ladies! for both of you!!!! So glad I could be of help!

    Persimian, most fin aid offices will tell you that the FAFSA is used as a guideline for an amount of money you can qualify for. Pell grants are hard to get and are only one grant program. Most of the women I know who have been successful in receiving them were single parents. Don’t give up hope though, there will be money! You may not be lended all of the funds you need, but there will be funds there. I’ve never been turned down for fin aid and I’ve had a LOT of interesting circumstances…lol

    Another place to check for scholarships and funding are professional orgs dealing with your field of study, from local to National. Those may or may not be on Fastweb but worth looking into.

    Don’t despair if it turns out that you cannot attend until next year, it might actually work in your favor. Why? Because if you were unemployed AND you apply and fill out the FAFSA early next year, your tax return for 2009 is what their numbers will be based on. So you should have a lot less in income and therefore qualify for more.

    What you really want to remember is DEADLINES for stuff. Once you get on collegeboards.com you can set up a calendar for the school you wish to attend and it will automatically add deadlines for the program you select – at least it used to! This is key.

    I don’t know about Berkeley or the prgm you wish to enter, but most colleges require admissions paperwork for the any semester to be filed months in advance. Usually it is October for spring classes in January, February or March for classes in the fall (beginning in August) and summer sessions depend on the program. Which brings up another point: Entering in a less attended semester for the first time – say Spring instead of Fall – is sometimes cheaper and less crowded.

    Since you are interested in the medical coding field, why not call up local hospitals/clinics and see if they have any part time work? Working in a compatible field will be good experience and could lead to a permanent job down the road. :D

    About age: Remember to focus on your strengths…As a mature worker, you have more experience in the workforce and most likely would be more willing to do whatever it would take. It has not held me back, but then I am a force to be reckoned with. So are you! Not everyone makes choices like we have and it is empowering to say the least.

    One other thing: check out local community colleges. You can ask for or look online for an equivalency guide showing what classes at X Local College = classes at Berkeley. I say this because community college is usually much cheaper and a lot of classes will transfer. You are usually limited to 60 or so transferable hours, but that covers any general ed you might need. Ask about online courses too.

    You know what? Some of the classes you’ve already taken for your AA should be able to be applied to a 4 year degree. Ask a Berkeley counselor (different than fin aid counselor) about creating your own program. Many schools, particularly with adult students, will do this.

    Once you get enrolled ask me about books and half.com. Also MyEdu :D I’m honored you want to share your journey with me. Thanks!!!!

    Nadieo: I have always believed that when I have made the correct choice, the way would be provided and things will fall into place. Challenging doesn’t necessarily mean bad, just means to “eat your wheaties” and you sound up to the task! Go YOU!


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  6. FancyFrancie FancyFrancie says

    I posted a similar question yesterday; hadn’t seen yours.  I too was laid off in early Sept and am planning to start studying for the medical coding field in Jan.  Here’s what I’ve found:  1)  the money states had from the Stimulus Bill for re-training is GONE, and more isn’t coming until the beginning of the gov’t  fiscal year, 7/1; 2) for FAFSA and numerous other grants/scholarships, if you already have a BA, you are not eligible for them – I have a BA and an MS – the system has not caught up to the fact that a lot of well-educated, highly experienced Boomers and seniors are out of work and looking for new careers; 3) when there is a chance for funding, they are taking apps for Fall, 2010, so if you want to start sooner, it’s no-go; 4) as others have said, if you made a good salary and/or have some money, you will not qualify for financial reasons.  It is disappointing.

    That said, if your resources are lean, and you can wait until Fall, 2010, you may find something.  If you are on unemployment, you can also apply to keep your UI going while you go to school, and they’ll release you from having to look for/take a job.

    Also, for medical coding, you can take courses directly from the professional/certifying organization AAPC, so you may want to check that out on their web site.

    I’ve decided to take my training either from my local community college or AAPC and just pay for it myself, so I can get going in January.  P.S.  I am 63 and have no plans to retire, mostly because I won’t be able to do so. 

    Good luck!  We all should write our State and Fed’l legislators to review funding for Boomers and seniors to go to school, not just for fun, but to retrain for new career options.

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    • persimian persimian says

      Thanks Fancy:  I have saved AAPC to my favorites to review in full later.  It looks like a VERY interesting site.  Ladies:  I spoke with a representative from Berkeley a few days ago and she assured me there are indeed other financial venues I could try. She also said that because I am on unemployment all I have to do is present my payment history to her and she will file a financial “appeal.”  I have an appointment to see her on Monday AFTER a job interview that I also have scheduled for that day.  I’m hopeful that something positive will come of both these meetings.  If I can’t start in January, I’ll look into starting in September.  In either case, I am DEFINITELY going back to school, because I really do want to work for myself in the VERY NEAR FUTURE!!!  Thanks again for all your helpful advice.

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  7. zblair zblair says

    Excellent news, Persimian! I will send you good vibes on Monday for both of your opportunities! I just know that something will work out for you and I will check back here on Monday for your update :D

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  8. Generic Image nadieo says

    I will be sending you good vibes as well, Persimian.  I just arrived at a conference in Orlando where I am seeking information on a career change, hoping to meet the director of the grad program I want to apply to and meet people who may show the way toward a more fullfilling outcome from my current lack of employment.  I’m here on my own at great expense and I’m trying to be open to all people and all possibilities.  I’m signed up for 4 seminars in areas where  I have no experience at all.  I hope you all at VN will send vibes my way too, ‘cuz I’m a little scared.

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    • zblair zblair says

      Nadieo I will keep you in my thoughts! Good for you to get out there too. I know it is a risk, but then sometimes great things happen when we get ourselves out there. When you become afraid, try instead to embrace the fact that a new opportunity could exist for you and you are consciously doing your part to get there. The fact that you are on a mission might dispell some of that fear! :D

      Here’s a thought: Save all of the receipts dealing with this. I say that because I am fairly certain that you can deduct expenses looking for work if you are unemployed from your taxes! You might have to see what is involved but it is worth it for you to investigate. Good luck to you!

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    • persimian persimian says

      Nadieo:  My vibes are DEFINITELY on the positive side for you.  I just got off the telephone with a friend in Las Vegas who says that the unemployed should consider themselves blessed because we have the opportunity to get training for new opportunties that will put us in the forefront once the job market opens up again – whereas people like her who are working with just a certificate are working on a wing and a prayer.  I’m envious of you because you have the opportunity to learn new things right away.  Please feel free to share with us the great things you learn.  Don’t be scared.  You are AHEAD of the bunch by learning more!!!  And the sacrifices you are making via expenses will make it all worth it in the end.

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  9. Generic Image gloworm says

    I don’t know about NY’s policies, but my state (RI) waives tuition for students collecting unemployment benefits at all state colleges. It’s worth looking into.  I was out of work for two years and was able to get an associates degree for just the cost of fees and text books.  Good Luck to you. 

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