Not going back to school right now

I don’t remember if I mentioned it here before or not, but after I left ICE to begin working on my own projects full time, one of the things Mandy and I considered was that one of us might go back to school full time. A major factor of this is that student loans / financial aid are designed to cover all the costs of going to school, from tuition and fees to transportation, room and board – if I could get sufficient financial aid, I could go back to school, finish my Studio Art B.F.A. (which I believe would help not only with creating art but with integrating into the ‘Art World’ and with selling art to all the people who keep asking where I studied), and have several years of lead time to get my projects paying enough to cover the difference between Mandy’s single salary and our living expenses. ie: I’d get an education, that fancy sheet of paper that so many people seem to think proves you’re worth something, we’d get the immediate financial assistance we need to get by right now, and we’d get the time to build my businesses up to a point where their income might be more steady and significant. It sounded like win/win/win/win/win, so I submitted my FAFSA and applied for re-admission to ASU.

Due to a “paperwork” problem (which is insane, since the entire thing is digital), my transcripts took several tries and over two months to get from PVCC to ASU, so I didn’t get officially re-admitted to ASU until a couple of weeks ago. I promptly went down to ASU for advisement and to submit some paperwork to their financial aid department, neither of which I could do before being re-admitted. The financial paperwork was a revision of our financial position, since the FAFSA was based on last year’s taxes and this year I’m not working full time and expect to make something like $20k less as a household this year over last year, depending on how sales go in the next six months. (Anyone want to offer $20k for a painting? It would be the height of irony, far better than buying ‘I Am Rich’ for your iPhone.) Show the change in financial status, write a letter about it, fill out a form, and they’ll re-consider your financial need and revise their financial offer.

While waiting two months for a file to be electronically transmitted less than 25 miles, we had time to consider -at length- many of the pros and cons of my attending school, and its feasibility. Notwithstanding the immense increase in our personal debt that the student loans would create (student loans being one of the least terrible forms of debt on your credit report), there was plenty to consider. If attending school full time, would I have [any|enough] time to work on personal projects, new art, new books, et cetera? How much money would need to be offered above the cost of attendance to cover living expenses, including the cost of driving back and forth to Tempe? What is the real value of a degree? Would I be able to cope with Academia on a constant basis for three to four more years? Would I learn anything worthwhile that I couldn’t just teach myself? On and on, back and forth, in conversation, thought, and prayer while we waited…

By the time I managed to get PVCC to actually send the relevant information to ASU and get re-admitted there, I had determined both what the financial aid offer needed to be in order to attendance to be financially possible (ie: without causing us to starve even faster) and that if re-admitted and appropriate financial aid was offered I would be attending this Fall. The initial aid offer was based on “zero need” from last year’s tax numbers, and was about 60% of what we would actually need, all in Unsubsidized loans (which means that interest accrues while you attend school). Friday I got the letter from ASU advising of their updated offer (which I had seen online this time last week, but wanted to wait for the paperwork, in case that wasn’t their final revision) of aid, which was based on a need which they had adjusted by almost exactly the amount more we needed to be offered to afford school. Except that despite the significant change in calculated need, the dollar amount of the “new” offer was exactly the same. A little over half of it was now in Subsidized loans (which means that interest doesn’t start accruing until you’re done with school) and the rest was still in Unsubsidized loans.

Well, fuck. That doesn’t help, not at all. Not in the slightest. Except that it does make my decision for me: I cannot attend ASU this Fall.

So I’ve already gone through, this weekend, and declined their insufficient financial aid offer and withdrawn myself completely from classes. I should probably send a couple of courtesy emails to my adviser and a professor in the Art Department I’d emailed to say I was coming back… thank them and let them know I’m not… But otherwise, that thought, that dream, is over for now. It’s back to the grindstone for me (not that I’ve really been away), back to trying to make enough to eat from my art and my books.

OR: Why I can’t stand your University friends

(Original title:) Insufferable Idiots Academics

So, I know I didn’t blog about it before we left, but Mandy and I are on “vacation” right now.  We had considered a long road trip, including the RoboGames last weekend in SFO, plus fun road-trip attractions such as Hearst Castle, Yellowstone (her father lives near there), Devil’s Rock, Mt. Rushmore, et cetera… but decided (primarily because of money) that we would instead go straight to Laramie & Cheyenne, WY where her family and friends live, and come straight back.  Not just saving on gas, but on admission to attractions, inevitable hotel costs in SFO (it’s reasonable to sleep in the car overnight at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere, or a WalMart parking lot in a small town, but less so in a major city like SFO), and the additional cost of so many more days of eating on the road (we’ve been eating a LOT of PB&J, but one can only take so much of that…), we decided that whatever much fun those things might be, for less than 1/3 the cost we could still visit her family (I’ve never met Mandy’s mother, and Mandy wants to meet her new niece while still a baby) and buy Rock Band, which has already provided more hours of entertainment than one day & night in SFO (ie: the cost of just a night in a hotel room and a meal for two in SFO).  Anyway, we looked at maps a bit and the “fastest” route (per Google Maps, and our own reckoning) straight to Laramie and back is about 2200 miles.  So, I fiddled around, got us off interstates for the most part, added interesting stops like Roswell and Los Alamos, NM, and Moab, UT (read: Arches and Canyonland National Parks) to the route, and still came up within 1/2 a gallon of gas of the original 2200 miles, with less stress (ie: aggressive interstate drivers) and prettier views, and things to look at.

Right now, we’re in Laramie, WY, where Mandy’s friends from University live.  She did two Bachelor’s degrees here at University of Wyoming, and lived with some of these people for much of that time, so they’re “like family” to her.  I’ve met Tessa before, she came to Phoenix last year, she’s pretty nice, we get along fine, we have things in common and can speak intelligently about a variety of topics freely. Today we hung out with her, walked around part of “historic downtown” Laramie together, and had a nice day of it.  Tessa’s sister seemed nice, if quiet, as well.

Then there are the others.  The boys.  Linus and Flynn.  We have a lot of shared interests.  They do an online comic (I’ve done 12 different online comics at various times, myself, plus collaborated on several others), they’re mac users, sci fi geeks, Linus is interested in religious studies, philosophy, Japanese culture, et cetera, and Flynn is an artist as well… And these are just a few of the things that came up in conversation in a couple of hours today; from talking with Mandy there’s a lot more that we (theoretically) have in common.  Even a lot of political and economic ideas, which I rarely can speak about without raising ire.  And yet.

And yet, most of the time today, when they got to talking, all I could do was keep my mouth shut. Continue reading OR: Why I can’t stand your University friends