Please forgive me getting a little meta here. I had a few future blog posts planned out about some of my pre-class experiences at Hoth CC. One was going to be about checking out Hoth's library and law collection. Another was about logistics: cars, trains, long walks, and summer heat. One was going to be about the art and science of textbook shopping. But all of them have been rendered superfluous now, as I am currently trying to wrest myself from the tentacled mass that is Hoth CC. And if you've seen enough hentai you know where this is going.
The first instance of tentacle -ahem- screwage was the fight over core classes not being credited. Yes, it's been how many weeks now? And I can't get Mr. Paralegal Advisor (formerly known as Advisor Two) to return my e-mails or phone calls. If there is any kind of appeal I can make to have my undergraduate classes reconsidered, or if there is some provision for “school of life” credit, I have no way of knowing. Mr. Paralegal Advisor is my Hoth adviser. Period. And he ain't talking.
Given the list of actual Paralegal courses required, add English, Speech, and Government to Algebra (and whatever remedial classes I'd need to arrive at that level) and the required-by-the-program Computer class, I'm looking at a good four years of evening schooling before I'd get my grubby mitts on a Paralegal certificate. That's just too damned long. My cataloging job at Large Public Library would have long since evaporated by then, and Spousie and I would be living in a cardboard box somewhere.
And that was only the first tentacle. The second was an e-mail I received that said, basically, “You've got too many degrees to get financial aid. Bugger off.” Yes, since I already have a bachelor's degree, Hoth's Financial Aid office pitched my request for a student loan into the round file. Never mind that there are indeed loans available for the dangerously over-educated like me. They've got a higher interest rate, and you don't get to defer payments while you're in school, but you do indeed get these loans by filling out the almighty FAFSA, and going through your school's financial aid people. I guess that's news to Hoth. Again, no explanation, no appeal. Just the “bugger off” e-mail, and we're done.
Community college ain't cheap. Well, relatively speaking, it is, but it ain't free. I paid for my three classes with a stash of money I lovingly call my “coronation fund.” (I was saving up for an inevitable crown for a slowly-cracking upper tooth, and it had taken longer than I care to admit to get the total up as far as it had.) Without a student loan, at a comparable rate of future saving, I could multiply by three to how long it would take me to get my paralegal certificate. That's way too damned even longer than I reasonably have to get an occupational safety net under me.
So, we have not enough time, and not enough money. What's an aspiring paralegal student to do?
This one went to an information session about Major University's paralegal program. At the time, it was just for a look-see. (This was before the Two Terrible Tentacles made their presence known.) And it did look good: only four months. No class-transfer hassles: you got a high school diploma, a pulse, and enough cash? Congrats. You're in. But there's the rub: Cash. Major University's certificate falls under their Continuing Education program. As in: “we don't do financial aid.” They politely offered me a promissory note: ¼ of the tuition in advance, and monthly payments of the other ¾. (Um, right. If I could afford four-figure monthly payments, I'd just hand you the dough.) And then there's another six hundred for “required materials.” (No bargain-hunting expeditions for textbooks allowed.) Impressed as I was by their program, there was Just No Freaking Way.
Or was there?
Over frosty plastic cups of Starbucks' finest Tea Lemonade, Cagney and Lacy and Spousie and I brainstormed the possibilities. We came up with this: if I rolled over an old employer's 401(k) into an even older employer's account, and took a chunk out as a cash distribution in the process, I could plunk down the money to get me on a fast track to Paralegaldom. Granted, I'd have to take out enough to cover taxes and the penalty for breaking into my retirement piggy bank, but still, it would be doable. And I'd be down to only two retirement funds instead of my current three.
What could possibly go wrong?