I've spent most of my free time during the last day or so trying to sort out my financial aid situation; to get everything in order to get that temporarily free money called the loan, and to figure out the best course of action on that. Since my financial aid award from MCTC included more than enough to cover the six credits I'm able to take this semester, the minimum necessary to receive financial aid, I definitely had some options available to me and this necessitated delving in to the minutiae of the different award types a little bit, so I could determine what type of aid to request and how much.
The offer I received is for $11,000 for the year total, $5,000 of which is assigned as Work Study funds. Now that would be far more than I need for the year and very tempting to take on its own and eschew loans all together, but the usefulness of work study is limited by the assumption that I would have the time (including an accommodating schedule) and energy to work a part time job on campus. Given that I'm only taking six credits because I can't afford to leave my full time, first shift job I find it unlikely that accepting the work study award this year would be practical. That's too bad because it is money that is simply earned and doesn't need to be paid back to anybody at all ever but I just don't see it happening. Maybe in the future if I'm a bit more comfortable with the whole work, school, rest-of-my-life balancing act but not right now.
With work study out that leaves loans. Apparently I managed to make it through my entire initial undergraduate career at the University of Minnesota [Twin Cities] without actually understanding the different loan types . . . at all. Private loans are their own separate entity that I don't even want to contemplate right now (and they aren't awarded by anybody, they have to be sought out) so that leaves Federal loans, which come in two varieties: subsidized loans and unsubsidized loans. Pay attention fellow students who are reading this! If you don't know what I'm about to present it may be helpful information. Subsidized loans are Federal loans that have their interest covered by the Federal government (that's the subsidizing part) as long as the student is enrolled in school at least half time and for a grace period of up to six months. Unsubsidized loans accrue interest from the time they are issued and interest unpaid within a certain time frame capitalizes, becomes part of the principal loan amount meaning that interest will be charged on that new total as time goes on. Payment is not required on either type of direct Federal loan while the student is enrolled in school at least half-time, during periods of deferment, or during the six month-grace period after leaving school (on a temporary or permanent basis.
Given these facts it was pretty easy to decide that since I can get away with it for the moment I only want subsidized loans. I loathe debt. The faster I can clear the balance of what I owe the happier I will be, and the less interest I'm accumulating the faster I'll be in the clear. Ultimately I decided to accept $3,000 in subsidized loans from the total award package. It's more than the bare minimum I need, but I'm sure there will be expenses that I cannot account for at this time so I'm preparing for that possibility.
Oh capitalism, how repellent I find you. How I wish I was in Sweden or some place I could be doing this basically for free. But as the saying goes, "Cash Rules Everything Around Me."