Mom31: Dh and I are back in school. I graduated with a bachelor's in 03, but ended up hating the career choice. I'm very naturally minded, and love the "healing arts". There is an excellent massage program at my local community college and I am set to finish next year. It's a 2 yr program, not requiring any of the usual MACRAO agreement classes that I've already completed, so I am literally starting over. However, because I already have a 4-yr degree I am not eligible for much financial assistance. My college has scholarships through the women's resource center for low-income individuals, mother's returning to school, etc., but I'm not eligible. I can't get the pell grant or any other kind of grant. I can only get loans, and there is a lifetime max for undergrad loans, that I am about to hit. I may be finishing this on my own dime (what dime?), or just quitting before I really finish and moving on to my master's in nutrtion I plan to work on next.
My student loans and dh's loans and grants help a LOT. They almost double dh's yearly income. Those and our taxes keep us "comfortable" all year round with careful budgeting. W/o them there's no way we could make it. I haven't had a utility shut off since we started school again, we have the money for our van payment every month (we have only one vehicle, which we'll be paying off this year), etc. We're not buying ANYTHING unnecessary (have a crappy old couch, clothes from thrift stores, etc), but we're not constantly stressed sick like most here (and across America).
Now, when we're done with school, the hope is dh will be making double what he does now, as the career sites and job listings for his career say, and we'll still be "making it" as well as we do now. While some may say that student loans are just making us comfortable now to make us barely able to live when we're done, and in more debt than we could ever pay off (our only debt after the van is paid off will be student loans and our soon-to-be mortgage). However, even at double dh's current income we would still pay nothing on the SLs under the IBR. And, after 20 yrs of payments, if your loans are not yet paid off they are forgiven (only direct loans from the gov't, though, not private loans). Even if he ends up tripling his income, under IBR or ICR we will not pay more than we can "afford", and with this many children we won't be able to afford a lot.
So, we'll be only "comfortable" for the rest of our lives, rather than "rich". Oh well! That's all I've ever really wanted. Travel the world, staying in expensive hotels, buying a half million dollar house, too many designer clothes for my closet, these have never been my goals. I'm all about having a small homestead in the country, eventually completely off the grid. Maybe tracveling the country in a motor home in our retirement. So, Im happy with the choices we've made. Plus, dh will actually finally be happy in his career choice, in going to work every day, and there is WAY too little emphasis put on the importance of being happy at your job. Is it hard for him to go to school full time, and work full time, with 5 kids waiting for him every day? Yes. Does he feel it's worth it? Absolutely!
I would just contact the admissions office at your community college and ask where to start. They will put you in with a "counselor" and you can ask all your questions about programs, financial aid, etc. Your school will also have a website on which you can find all the info on fin aid and courses/programs, transferring, etc. Find something you WANT to do, not something you'll make a lot of money in. And don't believe the hype that there's a shortage in teachers (as Zebra can tell you) or nurses. Do what you would love to do even if you weren't being paid for it, and you'll find a way to get paid well for it (generally). I wanted to get into massage because I like it, want to use it on my family even if I never do it for a career, and I could start my own practice on my own terms/schedule. THEN, in one of my classes, someone said to me "Yeah, what other program can you get into, finish in a year, and make a MINIMUM of $20 an hour when you're done? Many make $60-100/hr." That changed my whole outlook on the field! Plus, it's growing SO FAST! Chiropractor's offices are hiring massage therapists like crazy, and it's beginning to be used heavily in physical therapy and hospitals (often as a complimentary therapy for cancer patients). Plus, the classes are so fun! You get a full body massage in every class. That's my kind of college course.
And feel free to ask me (or thystle) any questions. We're the only 2 students I KNOW of on this thread (or maybe it's her dh, but she knows everything about it anyway).