Asking for Help

Hey, folks! Especially folks in the education and financial aid space- I need your help.

I really, really, really love learning, and I would absolutely love to earn a college degree, but so far that has been unattainable for me due to various disability related issues. After mulling this over in my head for QUITE some time and recently discussing this with a former teacher of mine, I’ve decided to see if the infrastructure and financial assistance exists to help someone like me work towards a degree. I have tried looking into this in the past to no avail, but some recent changes to our society might make this a possibility now.

As many of you already know, I’m on disability due to a complicated rare disease which makes my body’s health unpredictable and unreliable, which led a disability judge to determine that I am unable to obtain gainful employment. I still have a robust love for learning and drive to better myself, so going to college would make me genuinely happy even if I wouldn’t be able to gainfully apply my knowledge to the general workforce.

The main issue is that I don’t have the stamina and reliability of my peers, so I wouldn’t be able to commit to being even a part time student. I can experience flare-ups which have left me unable to do much but rest for days or even weeks at a time, and they are unpredictable, so I am always anxious one might hit when I’m trying to meet a deadline. I’m not sure if Purdue (my university of choice) would be able to help me by allowing me to take fewer classes than my peers, which would hopefully enable me to work slowly but surely towards a degree. It might take me three times as long to get there, but I am willing to make the effort. I have a call scheduled with someone at Purdue to discuss these possibilities on Tuesday. I’m going for Purdue because I want to take classes given by a professor I know who works there. Her classes would enable me to eventually be able to develop VR experiences and games that can help benefit the chronic illness/ disability/ rare disease communities, which is my ultimate goal. 

I can’t obtain a driver’s license due to being completely blind in my peripherals and having poor vision overall, which really limits my ability to travel to classes. Thankfully, one of the ONLY positives resulting from this awful pandemic is the expansion of remote learning opportunities, allowing students to take classes from home that they normally couldn’t. Thanks to this, the infrastructure for remote access to the classes I want to take IS there, and that barrier to accessing the classroom should no longer be an issue!

The only barrier I am experiencing now is financial aid, which I’m sure will be discussed in the Tuesday call. I know that for most students, applying for financial aid is very easy, but there are some issues in my case:

  • I am on SSI, which severely limits what other financial assistance I am allowed. I am afraid that obtaining funding for school might negatively impact my monthly SSI assistance, which I quite literally can not afford to lose.
  • As I just mentioned, I can’t handle being a full or part-time student, so if I CAN work towards a degree while taking only a small number of classes each semester, I’m not sure if there are options available to me to help pay for these classes, as most financial assistance programs, such as FAFSA, require you to make a full or part time commitment (as far as I am aware, please do correct me if I’m wrong!).

I also want to express some guilt that I would essentially be using taxpayer dollars to get an education that will likely never impact the general workforce. This is for my own happiness and fulfillment, and while I intend to use what I learn in school to positively impact society by creating new ways to help those impacted by chronic illness and rare diseases, I acknowledge that I am essentially an economic black hole and I do feel some guilt for asking for that money.

Before any of you suggest creating a GoFundMe page to pay for my education, I’m going to stop you right there. I can’t in good conscience make a fundraiser for this when there are people literally dying to pay for necessary medical procedures and my fundraiser would be in effect competing with them. Nope. Can’t do that.

Please keep in mind that I live in Indiana, which may not have the same level of financial support for disabled folks or students that other states may offer.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you have any advice for me, please let me know!

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