Jul. 27th, 2013

a_bit_of_wit_2: (Blow me.)
Anxiety. Stress. Worried about money. The same sort of internal panic I felt during my college stints at New Paltz and MCLA seems to have returned.

I've mentioned many times that I believe, for some bizarre reason, that the Universe doesn't want me to get a college education. I don't know what I did to piss the Universe off, but for these past 10 years, it has repeatedly thrown obstacle after obstacle at me, all in the attempts to stop me from getting a Bachelor's degree. First it was cost. Then Crohn's disease. Now we're back to cost.

Trying to obtain a college degree entirely by yourself, without any backing or financial help from your family is an exercise in endurance, frustration, futility, and exasperation. The entire system in the US for obtaining financial aid is entirely dependent on obtaining help from your parents. And even then, the ridiculous conclusions that the US Department of Education comes to after you've done the charade known as the FAFSA is enough to put anyone off the idea of college. I'll never forget when I was initially seeking aid to go to New Paltz right out of high school, and the FAFSA determined that my stepdad, who made around 50,000 a year and had to support 6 people, could afford to pony up $7000 out of a $10000 bill for my freshman year. I have no idea what sort of eldritch, archaic, and out-dated formulas the US Dept. of Ed. uses to determine just how much a family can pony up for school, but I do know this--they're almost entirely wrong. They take nothing into account like, oh, say, LIVING EXPENSES. You know, the cost of shelter, food, basic utilities, etc. Hell, just this year when I filed that fucking useless form, they determined that out of the combined income of April and I ($71000 BEFORE taxes), we could afford to pony up $18,000 out of a $30,000/year school. Sure, we can do that--if we forgo things like FOOD, or BASIC NECESSITIES.

Last year, I was able to afford going to Sage. They offered a generous financial aid package, but despite it all, I still owed $6000 out of pocket. I took out a private loan to cover it. This year, I'm now facing a yearly bill of $12000. And when I went back and forth with financial aid about it, they pointed out that the reason why my aid was so generous was due to an error I made on last year's FAFSA. It was an honest mistake, although in hindsight, I find it hilarious that neither Sage or the federal government didn't catch it. So because I fixed the error this year, it meant I lost $8000 in college grant money. The moral of the story is clear, friends: when you fill out the FAFSA, lie. It might be the only way you get something resembling close to some actual financial aid.

I have since gone over everybody's head and have made a direct appeal for more aid with the head of the financial aid office. In light of the fact that I got unintentional extra aid last year due to my error on last year's FAFSA, I am preparing to get an unsuccessful appeal, which will mean additional private bank loan money.

At this point, I only have 3 (or 4, depending on what classes are offered and when) semesters left before I am finished. While I am hopeful that my appeal works, I am going to err on the side of caution and prepare some contingencies if it falls flat.

If I wasn't halfway through my junior year, if I was still a sophomore, I'd probably call it quits at this point--to come 10 years only to keep getting the proverbial door repeatedly slammed in my face? Yeah, Universe, you win. But now I can start to see the finish line. Not to mention of how much I've improved and developed my own skill as a photographer. I've done a lot of good here. My academic record is great. I don't want to end it for good. Not when I am healthy, Crohn's is in check, and have the ability to finish school.

I still want to get that degree and finish out college for several reasons: primarily to grow, learn, and improve my own skills as an artist. Be among people that can guide me along, and ultimately develop how I want my photography to go in my eventual career. Other, secondary reasons: I've already incurred tens of thousands of dollars of debt. I'd rather have all that debt with a diploma to show for it, then to have all that debt with nothing to show for it. Also? My stepdad. When I began this journey, my stepdad looked me dead in the eye and said I was stupid to go to college. Said it was nothing more than a huge waste of time and money. He preferred I stay home, work, and help support the family on my income. This, coming from a man who dropped out of high school, even. So, I've gone it alone. All loans for college are in my name. I've not been given a single cent from my immediate family. I never felt so much like a failure (to myself) then when I had to leave Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts after one semester because of cost, and all my options for obtaining any extra money fell flat (being that I was 18, had no credit history, my parents had/still have HORRIBLE credit, and refused to even co-sign a loan). On the drive back home to Cape Cod, he looked at me and said, "I told you so." That memory still burns inside me, and I want to spit it right back in his face when I finish school.

My sister got her Associate's degree all on her own, also receiving the same sort of treatment from him.

I'd be lying if I didn't say, though, that I am getting weary of this. My wife is getting weary of this. If I wasn't almost a senior, I'd probably be calling it quits. It should not be this difficult to get a college education. We have such a double standard in this country: if you don't get a degree, you're seen as worthless. Lazy. Won't amount to anything. Hell, there were so many jobs I could've had working for the State because I had the necessary experience, but wasn't even considered for because I didn't have a degree. In anything. We put so much emphasis on the importance of getting that degree, then make it impossible to obtain without either being a) very wealthy, or b) going into crippling debt that will take decades to pay off. It's enough to make anyone jaded. Why would ANYONE in their right mind choose to go to college, knowing all of this? See the double standard above. Yet, now, with the economy a piece of shit, many college graduates are having such difficulty in finding work.

I can say this...once I've obtained my Bachelor's, I'm done. I have no thoughts about even TRYING for a Masters in fine arts or photography. Fucking forget it. By the time I graduate, this crater- and sinkhole-filled journey will have taken 12 years. I'll be almost 30. NO WAY am I pursuing a Masters.

So if anyone's willing to front me $12,000 so I can just get through THIS year, I'll be forever in your debt. In the meantime, I'll contemplate moving to Sweden or Finland, where not everyone's out to make a fucking profit.


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