Beginning a program of study in any graduate or medical program is daunting enough without thinking about the financial aspects. Adding the complexity of student loans to the mix is enough to make anyone shudder with stress. The time commitment to school is so exacting that many schools cap, or prohibit, the hours dedicated to a job. This places a student’s financial security, for about four years, solely into the hands of the federal student loan program. Depending on your trust in the government, this can be a pretty scary and stressful prospect. For, if life has taught anything, it has taught that it is anything but predictable and financial curveballs are a harsh reality. The “what-ifs” are endless. Am I painting a bleak picture? Don’t fret, there’s good news, too.
It took me years to wade through the ins and outs of our financial aid system and, while my knowledge is still cursory, I’d like to share some of my findings with you. Here’s the down-low.
A student living off campus is eligible to draw a “refund” for living expenses equaling $7,600-$8,000 per trimester. Sure, right off the bat, it seems like a pretty solid amount – and it is. That’s a few thousand dollars better than a full-time entry job at McDonalds. Sure, you may scoff at that figure, but it does cover a modest apartment, a grocery budget of about $50-70 a week, and all the other bills and expenses… barely. There’s not a lot of wiggle room for acts of god. OK, OK, I swear the good news is coming.
Let’s say, your car blows a belt, needs a new radiator, or wears out its tires. It’s an unforeseen expense that you can’t afford with your refund. Here’s the pearl for the day – you can bring in the receipts for your car repair and the school will request extra loan money for you to cover it. Yes, it usually is via a credit-based Grad Plus loan, but by the time you’re done at National, you’ll most likely be well acquainted with them anyway. Don’t freak out yet, by credit-based I don’t mean to imply you need some sort of Bill Gates credit score of $8 million. You just can’t be 90 days or more delinquent on a credit payment recently. They’ll work with you. So before you get too stressed thinking about the financial hurdles of pursuing your dreams, remind yourself that they’re just hurdles – you can hop over them. Not to mention, Marc Yambao, head of Financial Aid at National, runs a tight ship and has a way of flattening those hurdles tirelessly.