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A Little Help From My Friends

In the Autumn of 1971 I was about a year and a half old. My parents had just moved to Hollywood, and my mom started making friends at Pointsettia Park. Marie’s mom was one of handful of women who we kids would only recognize by the backs of their heads.

For the next thirty nine years our mothers would gather ’round circular tables in one another’s kitchen or dining room and chat over coffee, tea, heavy cheeses and, in the evenings, wine. They were married women, some of them, but the friendships were about the Moms, and us kids would play together. We became as close as our mothers had, loving each other no matter what.

My first friend, Marie, who I met in the park in 1971. My friend who I didn’t choose, much like family, my friend who was chosen for me, needs your help.

MarieĀ  left college at 21, there was a big event that kept her from being able to continue her studies. It is personal, but it’s a good reason (as most are).

Fast forward almost twenty years, and Marie re-enrolls at one of the California State Schools. She is an excellent student even though she is juggling a very difficult degree program with working full time, a husband, and two children. They budget their time and their money, college will be a stretch for them, but with some financial aid (mostly in the form of loans) it is doable and it is a good investment for the entire family.

California State Tuition increases at a lightening pace, Marie smiles and, “keeps on chugging forward” (her words not mine). Marie applies for a little bit more in the way of loans, and she is denied.

Marie has been a student too long, and is no longer eligible for federal financial aid. This is crippling news. If Marie doesn’t finish her degree (not going to happen) her other loans come due immediately. Marie, and her family of four, have made huge sacrifices and she is not prepared to walk away without the degree.

Here’s where I need your help. If Marie spends hours and days scouring the internet for smaller student loans, grants, and scholarships she won’t have enough time to do what’s in front of her. Marie was hoping y’all could help.

I know my audience is diverse so we’re asking you to help lay a path so Marie can do the footwork. Please use the comment section to post links to any lesser known scholarships, loans or grants that you may know of. If they are specific to state, we are in California. Marie is working towards a design degree in Landscape Architecture at a Public University. She is a working mom and a married lady.

I’m asking you, because this is family for me, please share your knowledge. We need help.

16 thoughts on “A Little Help From My Friends”

  1. Have her touch base with her on-campus Financial Aid office , the Non-Traditional Student office, her current employer’s HR department, and her academic advisor. All should have some information for her and be a good place to start.

  2. Have her try this: NEXT DEADLINE IS TUESDAY! The Project Working Mom 2010 scholarships have three separate deadlines: March 1, April 27, and September 30. The program will distribute close to 100 scholarships in each round, and applicants who aren’t selected in one round can reapply for the next. Those who win a scholarship will be notified within a month after the deadline. To apply, go to, select the degree program and the school of interest, and write a short personal essay.

  3. what about fafsa? the gov’t is giving money. i don’t know if the deadline is up for the school year already. but they were giving up to $5500. and if my husbands ex-wife could get the full amt…anyone can.

  4. This is a tough situation, but she should definitely keep current on her FAFSA, talk to people at the school, and look at websites such as, where she can be matched up to scholarships she’s qualified for. There are tons of things out there for just about anything – down to eye color, left handedness, etc.

    Advice: Going for multiple small (and often local) awards is usually better than shooting for the few huge awards out there.

    Good luck, Marie!

  5. I don’t think my last comment posted. Here’s the short version.

    School financial aid office
    Fastweb (Google it) – matches you with scholarships. Best bet is to finance your education by going for multiple small (and often local) awards than trying your luck with the few major ones out there. Still try, but focus on the smaller ones. $500 scholarships can add up quickly.

    Best of luck to you, Marie!

    1. Willibaldo is right with FastWeb and multiple loans. That’s the best place –and a legitimate place– to get an automated match with scholarships. But this could take some time to get the right fit. Also good advice to go to Financial Aid Office and Carrer Center and she might also try her school department to find associations that are affiliated with Landscape Architecture that also might offer scholarships. Another place is her church/temple to see if they provide scholarships. Many do.

      If she has Federal Guaranteed Student Loans and is in a pinch to pay she can also work with them to delay/modify payments.

  6. She can also try going through a bank. A lot of banks have non-government supported loans. I dropped below half time one semester in graduate school (on accident, actually) and got a loan through my bank, Wells Fargo. They’re quite helpful and will try and match you up with the best loan for you. She needs to get started ASAP as it can take a couple weeks to fully process the loans. I ended up owing a bunch of late payment fees!

  7. Get a one day subscription to the foundation center online service (go platinum) and have all the possible constellations or reframes of her life ready (mom, nontraditional student, green, environmental, etc.) – there is an individual grants section that is quite good. Have her use the word search field at the bottom- plug in the state but don’t bother with the other geo fields. If she wants to do this- you can have her contact me and I will totally help out another working mom get started – I find and securing funding as my career. She can ping me through my corporate website ( – its under construction but my contact stuff is there) – I can give her a probono walk through on the service. I don’t work or benefit from the service I am suggesting- she can also find it for free if there is a foundation center in LA – there is one here in SF and the service is free if you go into their office.

  8. I went through this just a few weeks ago. I didn’t recieve enough financial aid to cover my tuition. (this includes loans) and couldnt get private loans.

    I suggest she goes into the financial aid part of her school and break down her situation. Often times the school has lists of loans that are made for situations such as this. Or scholarships through the school. I was able to get my tuition covered because they had a couple of scholarships they hadn’t handed out yet.

    Hope that helps!!

  9. Hello.

    You don’t say how much money she will need to complete her degree, how many credits she has accumulated, etc. I’m all for getting an education, but is the investment really going to be worth it? Too many students do not think through the “return on investment” for certain programs. How much does a landscape designer make? Given her loans and current family expenses, how long will it take to pay down the debt–at what monthly payment? At what cost to her children’s education?

    The fact is that it will be very, very difficult to find the amount of scholarship money she needs to avoid taking on more debt. And more debt may not be in the best interest of her family. So before plowing ahead, she should carefully run the numbers. A twenty-one year old with forty years of professional life ahead (and with no mortgage, no kids, no attachments) can make a very different calculation than the woman in her mid-40s with kids who will be soon paying their own tuition bills.

    I’m sorry to be the buzzkill here. I guess I am just playing devil’s advocate. I believe in education, and I make my living by helping people achieve their college dreams. But sometimes, in some situations, the best solution is not to complete. If she cannot afford to pay her tuition in cash, and if the Federal money is expired and gone, and if she is unsuccessful in pulling down third-party grants (which amount to only about 3% of all scholarship aid in the country–and most of which goes to 18 year-olds), then she may have to resort to a different plan.

    As I sometimes have to tell my clients, reality bites.

    I wish your friend the best of luck.


  10. One more bit of buzzkill (since I’m the skunk at the garden party): the California state system is broke. I cannot imagine her finding a lot more financial aid grants/scholarships coming from the taxpayers of California.

    And I again warn against taking on more debt, which is what Jess and Cassie recommend. Banks may feel you are a good credit risk, but remember that student loans follow you around until death do you part…you cannot get rid of them, even if you file for bankruptcy.

    I like Zombie Mom’s recommendation: the foundation centers could be helpful in rustling up some scholarships. But again beware: if she needs $10,000 per year and gets only $2500 and has to fill the rest with bank loans, well, do the numbers. Is the ROI going to be worth the investment? Only your friend can make that judgment, based on cold, hard facts.

    Again, good luck.

  11. I got word of your need for help from @CollegeChat on Twitter and thought I would try to provide some helpful tips to help you move forward in your educational process.

    My understanding is that you are no longer eligible to receive Title IV funds which are awarded by your institution based upon your FAFSA results.

    Each school sets their policy on awarding these funds and any restrictions are solely at the discretion of the school you are attending. Most schools use satisfactory progress (GPA and Credit Completion) as the variables in which they determine your eligibility for Title IV monies. For example, if a student is not taking enough credit hours each semester or is consistently performing poorly in the classroom, the school can have a policy in place that limits the “misuse” of Title IV funds to further that particular students access to federal funds.

    I am not sure if your situation matches the above scenario but the good news is that each school has a different policy on satisfactory progress. What eliminates you for access to funds at one school may still allow you to benefit for funding from another. My guess is that that all the California state school systems have the same policy but you may be able to find access via an online program (like University of Phoenix and the like).

    Now… If your problem is that you have maximized your federal student loan limits and you still have access to Title IV monies (via the FAFSA), you may still be able to apply for Pell grant monies (depending on your EFC) as well as other grant funds (Cal Grant – Info Here: If you want to change your major to Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math, there are even more grant programs that could be available to you. STEM initiative funding is popping up in states all across the nation.

    Outside of Federal Loans, you may have to look at private student loans to help get you through the remainder of your education. Sallie Mae just rolled out a Smart Loan program that has a pretty decent applicant approval rate. You can also check out Discover and Wells Fargo. You will want to try and have a co-signer on these programs just because your interest rate will be more favorable (along with your chances of being approved).

    I recently came across a $7 million dollar scholarship program out of Texas that is committing $1 million dollars of funding to out-of-state residents. Since you are in California, you can give it a go:

    Hope this information helps.. Unfortunately, without knowing all the details, it is difficult to provide a more detailed solution.

    Doug Schantz

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