FIRST PERSON | As a 40-year-old single woman in college with a 12-year-old son, back to school challenges are not as simple as they could be. While Hunter begins school at the Oregon-Davis Jr./Sr. High School in Hamlet, Ind., instead of the elementary school, I am returning to WGU Indiana for my second session in the master’s of education program. For both of us, this means that the level of intensity just went up a notch or two. It also means finances are a bit tighter due to the efforts of the Department of Education.
In the undergraduate program last year, the cost of living was estimated to be almost $9,000 higher than it is this year, in a graduate program, though the tuition didn’t change. Only $900 of that bachelor program fee is in the form of extra educational expenses for student teaching. What changed?
The Department of Education wants to make it look like school costs less so people will quit complaining. While WGU Indiana hasn’t raised their tuition in years, they were still asked to reduce the cost of living, which in turn limits the maximum amount of financial aid a student can receive. Oddly enough, though a student in a graduate program qualifies for $3,000 more a year in student loans than an undergraduate program, I actually get less because of this reduction in the cost of living estimation prompted by the Department of Education.
I am a freelance writer and substitute teacher with a license in special education/elementary education, so I get the highest rate they can give me as a substitute. My biggest problem is not the actual amount of money I bring in; it’s juggling self-employment on top of substitute teaching and single motherhood.
We do face financial hardships, but my solution is to live a simple lifestyle. The fact that books and some supplies are furnished and included in my tuition at WGU Indiana certainly helps a lot. My son is the biggest help though.
We are not materialistic. We aren’t interested in name brands and he gets new clothes when he needs them, not because the school year is starting. I offered to take him to get new clothes and he asked me why we would do that when he already has clothes. O-D is a New Tech school, so most of the work is submitted via the laptops the school provides. All in all, the expenses for him to return to school were rather limited. The bulk of my expenses for returning to school come in the form of time lost from work while I try to develop the elements of my curriculum.
It’s absolutely more difficult to send a child to school as a single parent, but my son is learning values that he may not have learned otherwise. Saving up for things like new shoes rather than buying them just because we want to only means that he takes good care of the ones he has.