Don’t drop out of classes if it means losing financial aid

We didn’t pay for DH’s relative’s kid to take community college classes last semester because the government was paying for it under Covid relief.  Zie had 3 classes left and would get hir associates degree after finishing them.

But then the kid dropped out of class and moved to California to be with her older (half) sisters and their biological mom.  The three classes she’d been putting off were hard, she didn’t want to be a teacher anymore, and there are jobs in California that don’t require education and she was tired of her new husband and of DH’s relative telling her to take care of her three pets.  (She was still living with DH’s relative.  She gave away the dog and left him with her two cats, who, it turns out, use their litterboxes instead of the rest of the house when said litterboxes are clean.)

Because she left without attending the final classes, she lost financial aid.  So she owes money for the classes (that she would not owe if she had attended them and failed).  She’s blaming DH’s relative for telling her to look into the possible consequences of dropping rather than him looking into them for her.

She wants to get a job as a substitute teacher in California.  They have shortages, so they’re letting people who have taken specific classes (which she has) sub even if they haven’t gotten their degrees.  All she needs is a transcript.

But they won’t give her a transcript because she owes them money for classes.  So she can’t get a job as a sub.

I’m not sure what the moral is here.  Sometimes government programs backfire?  You need to look into your financial aid?  If we’d paid for the classes she probably would have finished them (I would hope?  But maybe we’ve paid for classes she dropped before?  But also before she had better reasons to drop?)?  Sometimes it’s better to fail a class than to withdraw?  Don’t get married young and don’t have pets that you’re not going to take care of?  If someone offers to pay for a tutor, take them up on it?

I don’t know how much she owes.  We’re not going to pay off her debt for reasons various and sundry.  (If it were our kid, we probably would.  But if it were our kid, there would be strings attached to paying it off.)

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14 Responses to “Don’t drop out of classes if it means losing financial aid”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    This hurts to read on so many levels.

    Sometimes it takes a mistake of this magnitude to learn you cannot run away from your problems and need to face them. I hope there is some good that comes out of this life experience. I’ve definitely worked with people who needed to hit rock bottom and then it lit a fire under them…working 3 jobs, paying off debt, getting their house in order. There is a path out there for success, especially with jobs a plenty and being young. I am optimistic.

  2. Linda T Says:

    I’m reading Money Magic which says do not borrow money to go to college. It says 20% of students drop out before graduation. Students also borrow money for degrees that don’t pay enough to live & pay their student debts.
    A lot of it made sense but it was depressing also. I know my daughter struggles with her student debt.

  3. CG Says:

    Ugh, this is so frustrating. I see this kind of decision-making among my students sometimes and occasionally among relatives: really short-term thinking; not fully understanding all the ramifications of actions; not understanding how to use systems that are there to help them, but only if they show up; letting a relatively small hurdle on the good path they’re on set them on a path that’s much harder. I’m not sure what the solution is. I think if I had tried to make bad choices, my parents would have somehow backstopped me, but I never tested it. And I was the type of person who listened to my parents, anyway, which is not unrelated to making good choices. I hope she gets things sorted out.

  4. Alice Says:

    Sigh. We’re contending with a similar other-people frustration just now, only involving my high-school-age stepdaughter. She isn’t dropping out, but– she doesn’t see how the choices she’s making right now have long-term repercussions. Her mom is generally focused on the short-term. She’s okay with things that my husband isn’t okay with… but since her mom has custody most of the time, my husband has less influence. I’ve started to worry that our relationship with my stepdaughter is being eroded by the entire situation, which is really not what I want. I’m trying to navigate by being neutral/positive, and just really hope that it works out in the end. My stepdaughter’s path isn’t going to be what it would have been if she wasn’t choosing what she’s choosing and if her mom wasn’t okay with it… but it can still be a good path when all is said and done. It’s just likely to be harder and take longer.

    And I guess the same is true in your situation, too. You tried to help her be on straighter, easier path to a better long-term outcome, and she’s chosen a harder one that’s less likely to turn out well. I think the real moral for her is: you have to live with your choices. Which she’s experiencing, whether she sees the moral or not. (But oh, so frustrating that she blew past so many signposts and aids and got so close before veering off the road. Three classes! At no cost, because she had financial aid!)

    • CG Says:

      We are navigating a situation with our oldest which, in the grand scheme of things, is pretty low stakes–much lower than it sounds like what you are dealing with. DH and I want him to try a Thing that will impose some inconvenience on him in terms of his school schedule logistics. We think the Thing could be an amazing experience (and participating in it has been a longstanding goal of his). But he has decided it’s not worth the inconvenience. We are trying to figure out how much to push. We could force him to do it, but that’s not really how we want to parent. And, like you say, I think it could damage our relationship with him. But we can’t escape the thought that he’s closing a door in a way that he doesn’t fully understand and is weighing the factors in the decision (short-term inconvenience vs. potentially cool experience with lifelong value) differently than we think he should. Don’t quite know what to do.

  5. Alison Says:

    Leaving aside the rest, I hate hate hate that universities do this. Just don’t hold transcripts hostage, especially to things like financial aid give-backs where the students never have the money to pay. Give the transcripts, but put a note that money is owed or something, so that the students CAN get jobs to pay back the money, or finish elsewhere, or just not get so completely derailed by one set of stupid decisions. It’s the same sort of thing as taking away licenses for not paying tickets; it seems just, but makes everything worse.

  6. Matthew D Healy Says:

    On an unrelated subject, I just happened across a New Yorker article about a student named Mackenzie Fierceton. As is the case with many New Yorker articles, this one (a) was far too long and (b) left me feeling like I had absolutely no idea who was right and who was wrong in a messy dispute about a scholarship. Google searches didn’t help: lots and lots of strong opinions and no way for me to judge them.

    Anybody in Grumpy land who has a clue? It seems like this case has pushed all sorts of buttons and thus has become (to scramble clichés) mainly a whetstone on which people sharpen their axes for combat in the ongoing culture wars.

  7. rose Says:

    I am sorry for the young woman who decided she did not want to teach,dropped out of community college, and now has a financial liability. But CA not getting a substitute teacher who dropped out of community college and does not want to teach is probably a win for CA classrooms. I hope she has a safe place to live and figures out how to pay for it. Growing up isn’t easy but impulsive choices make it harder.


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