Educational loans: The flexible financing

Orientation for GSLIS is on 9/7, and I found the info online today. It looks like a full day, running from about 8:30am until probably 4pm – ish. There are some details to take care of in the morning, then there is a big presentation. I'll meet (briefly) with my advisor, then have the opportunity to talk with other professors and go to little workshops/panels with current students and whatnot. I'll get a box lunch at 12:30 AND and ice cream social at the end of the day. Whoohoo!

In other related news, I called financial aid today and spoke to someone about my aid package. The guy I talked to, who was very nice, told me that if I wanted my aid package reduced I should write a letter and tell them how much to reduce the loans by. He told me I should ideally do this before classes start, but I could also do it in May if I wanted to. When I asked him what would happen if I didn't reduce the aid award, he told me I would be able to go to Student Financial Services, tell them how much money I wanted for books or living expenses or whatever, and they would cut me a check from the surplus of my aid award.

In other words, I could pay the electric bill and get Chinese takeout with my educational loans. This strikes me as absolutely preposterous. No thanks. I am going to check in with the guy again just to verify that I can reduce this in May with no penalties, and find out if I can specify to reduce the unsubsidized loan. I figure if I end up deciding to take a third class in the spring, need the money for summer session classes, or have to buy $500 worth of books and software it would be nice to have that available. In the meantime, they have just paid for everything from my loans (and the grant I got). Although if I can specify to reduce the unsubsidized loan, it might make more sense to just go ahead and do that now, thus saving myself the interest.

I just think it's a weird way of doing things. I don't really want to think to myself 15 years from now that I am essentially still paying off groceries and electric bills from graduate school. (This is not to belittle any of my friends who have been in or are in graduate school and did this.) I'm just used to the financial aid being very strictly regulated, especially loans, as my only experience with this was my undergraduate. You don't hear undergraduates talking about how their school is financing the books they need to buy for class through their loans. Living expenses maybe, if you live on campus and have a meal plan, but not if you live at home or off campus. This random flexibility ("You tell us how much of this you actually want") is strange to me.

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