Furthering my Education in Chiropractic care Leads to Large Amount of Unexpected Debt
I wanted to reach out and share my story about the federal student loan situation I'm currently dealing with, in hopes of obtaining advice, relief, motivation, connection, and so on.
Prior to taking on any form of debt, student loan or otherwise, I had been a part of the holistic health community. I began training in massage therapy back in 1999, learning multiple forms of bodywork over the years. I felt I had finally found my calling: helping others through the power of touch. I have been blessed with a gift for healing and became quite successful/busy over the years utilizing twelve different varieties of massage therapy from different parts of the world. My interest was/is primary in Eastern forms of massage as they are the oldest and most refined, though I do have training in several Western forms as well.
However, since massage and bodywork is not taken very seriously in this country, I felt I needed some additional form of training, as I wanted to become a primary healthcare provider, while remaining natural and holistic. It wasn't until a trip to China (for additional massage training) in 2008 that I realized chiropractic was the closest method of obtaining this new goal.
For those of you who do not know, China is home to one of the oldest recorded forms of medicine. Practitioners of Tuina (Chinese massage) are doctors and are highly regarded; seen as equivalent to acupuncturists and Western medical doctors. These Tuina doctors not only provide medical massage therapy, but are also trained in bone manipulations. Unfortunately, there is no way to become a doctor of massage in the United States, so chiropractic seemed like my best option.
My chiropractic journey began in 2008, not long after returning from China. I started by taking a handful of additional pre-requisites required to enter chiropractic school. I set aside my massage therapy work and teaching (I had taught massage at two different schools from 2005-2008).
After completing the pre-requisites, I moved up to Hayward, CA in August of 2009. I left behind my Mom, Grandparents, friends, numerous massage clients and just about everything else. Without going into every little detail, I will say it was quite a challenge to step back knowing I'd be taking on a lot of debt, but I felt the rewards outweighed the risks.
Unfortunately, I became very ill within the first few weeks of chiropractic school at Life Chiropractic College West. I was forced to withdraw by week 6 and was bed-ridden for two weeks, without the comfort of friends and family. Due to the illness, trouble with my Grandmother's health at home, as well as an uncomfortable living situation in Hayward, I decided it was best to return home.
I returned home to San Diego to recover, while making plans to return to chiropractic school, this time closer to home - at Cleveland Chiropractic College Los Angeles. I was refunded part of my tuition from Life West and paid off $5,000, thinking it was wise to reduce my starting debt. In the Summer of 2010, I re-started and finally completed my first term of chiropractic school. Despite the challenges of living in a strange place on my own and still reeling from what had happened at Life West, I felt proud to earn a 4.0 gpa in that first term.
The apartment complex I lived in while staying in LA was literally insane, with all kinds of noises from the various tenants waking me nearly every night. Numerous calls to security proved futile and by the time I began my second term at Cleveland, I was exhausted from not being able to obtain proper sleep.
I came to the devastating realization that I could not continue under those conditions, so I withdrew at around week 5 of my second term, hoping to move elsewhere in Los Angeles and resume classes at the same school by the start of 2011.
Since a close friend from home as well as a couple of friends I met at Cleveland were at a different chiropractic college in Whittier, CA, I actually decided to leave the area and move closer to the school there - the Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCUHS). I moved into a nice house, renting from a man who was looking for roommates. The house was very close to this new school, not to mention La Habra/Whittier is much nicer than the downtown area of Los Angeles.
I began my second term (first at SCUHS) at the start of 2011. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be at that house, as I quickly learned that the man renting my room was an alcoholic. I felt unsafe to live there with my two cats, but had no time to search for a new place to live because school was underway.
Despite the awkward living situation, I was proud to maintain a 4.0 gpa. Once the term ended, I moved to another home. This occurred right before my third term was to begin in May 2011. I literally started school the day after moving in, boxes piled up all around me.
I struggled to get situated while beginning my third term, but I was able to once again maintain my 4.0 gpa once it was finished. Despite all these external events that had occurred over the previous two years, I always held onto the fact that I was doing really well in school.
In August 2011, my grandmother had to be put into a rest home, primarily due to dementia and mobility problems. It bothered me that I was not able to be home to help my family during a transitional time. My 95 year old Grandpa was on his own for the first time and, while my Mom lived next door, it was becoming too hard for her to help on her own.
My fourth term (third at SCUHS) began in September 2011, but my mind was elsewhere. I still pushed on with classes, but my spark was not there. I could not focus on classes knowing so many changes were occurring at home. Even though I had started getting involved in teaching massage/soft tissue at SCUHS and felt happy at the school, my presence at home was needed.
By around week 8 of this fourth term, I realized I could not focus on my classes and that I had to be home to do whatever I could for my family. I withdrew from SCUHS (my third withdrawal overall) and moved back home near the end of October.
I had completed a half-term course and continued taking one other course that was offered once a week, driving up to Whittier from San Diego each week just so I could finish at least one full term class.
I was also selected to teach anatomy to high school students in the cadaver lab that term, so despite withdrawing, I fulfilled my obligation by driving up on most Fridays as well.
I managed to finish that class in December 2011, still maintaining my 4.0 gpa.
Since I've been back home, I've been wondering what to do. I hope to finish chiropractic school at some point, but with how much my presence back home has helped my Grandpa and Mom, I am not sure when the time will be right.
I recently learned that I already owe about $74,000 in student loans, with only 3 terms (of 10) actually completed. I did not think the amount would be so high, so I was taken off guard. When you are busy with school and had as many moves/changes over such a short time, you tend to lose track. I am extremely discouraged because not only can I not work as much doing massage right now, but I don't even know how to approach paying off an amount so great, especially when considering it will grow much more when/if I return to school.
I am currently feeling like my decision to add additional training through chiropractic was a huge mistake, one that could ruin my finances for quite some time. I wake up during the middle of the night in cold sweats with abdominal pain from worrying.
I try so hard to have faith that everything will work out. I feel like my intentions have always been good and pure, yet I also feel like I am being punished from the day I first started school in 2009 until now.
I am just so worried at this time, not only for me but for my Grandpa. It costs about $3,000 per month to maintain my grandma's care, so my Grandpa feels like all his life savings are going away. The government will not help until he has $3,000 left in his bank account. He has always wanted to leave his children and grandchildren with some kind of inheritance, but now he's afraid that not only will that not happen, but that he will have to sell our home (which his father built in the 1920s).
I have emailed Great Lakes to find out what to do about this loan, as I am supposed to start repaying in April. Even though school is not finished, my 'grace period' is ending. I am just so overwhelmed right now that I don't know what to do.
Any advice would be tremendously appreciated. I am in the process of writing a letter to President Obama as well as state officials because it seems crazy to me that people are put at such a disadvantage for trying to educate themselves, especially in situations like the one I have described, where the educational process has been put on hold indefinitely.