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I am racking my brain trying to devise a plan to get back to school. It is a weird predicament I am in it seems, but I can't imagine I am the only 40-something person with a Biology degree that wants to go back to school for a medical career. But here is the problem:

 


  • My degree (BSE in Biology) is 21 years old and therefore I have to retake the prereqs to get into a PA program. For the PA Program at UMKC it's 37 hours of prereqs in which I've had all but 9 hours. UMKC require they be 7 years old or less. 
  • I have to be working towards a degree to receive financial aid. Taking prereqs is not working towards a degree.
  • I cannot work towards another Biology degree because to be admitted to do that, the new degree has to have 30 hours of classes I have not already taken.
  • Therefore I am not able to receive financial aid because my BSE in Biology was very thorough.
  • I have gained a lot of experience the last 21 years, but I have not amassed a fortune that could help me pay for school. 
So the question is, how do people in my situation pay to retake their prereqs for a medical career? The PA programs don't accept my classes because they are too old (I don't blame them, I do need to brush up on my Biology and Chemistry) but I cannot come back to take them because I already have a degree and can't declare a different Biology major because I've had almost all those classes before, therefore I cannot receive financial aid. 


 

Also, I have not decided on being a PA on a whim, I first decided in 1995 that I wanted to do it, but life took me on quite the journey to get to this spot. 

 

Any ideas? Feel free to forward this to anyone you think could help.

 

Thanks so much!

Eric Benjamin

feedyourmonkey@gmail.com

adventuremonkey.com

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I was going to try to go full time at a local university and work at a local hospital during my 2 years of prereqs. I may have to dip into my retirement to pay, but I was wondering if there were other options available to me. 

 

I have an "interesting" background. Here it is to give some understanding and maybe some entertainment:

 

BSE- Biology. 

I taught HS Biology for three years. My first year I taught A&P and ran a program to bring students to the UNO Medical Center to see the many different career paths. I was looking at them probably more than the students and decided I wanted to apply to a PA program. Then life took a different direction. My wife (ex-wife now) wanted to move back home. I taught two more years and then knew I wanted to do something else. I wasn't close to a PA program and for some reason didn't consider it. I started an EMT program but because I was a photographer (that's how I paid for my Biology degree) I ended up getting an offer to work for a magazine. I pulled that thread and here is what happened:

  • I worked as a graphic designer/photographer
  • I sold cars (needed the money) and was quite successful but hated it; lasted 4 months
  • I managed a Fox Photo Lab
  • Owned and operated a photography studio for 6 years
  • Worked as a Nuclear Chemist until a job opened up at the plant for a Media Specialist
  • Media Specialist for 5 years
  • Marketing and Communication Coordinator for 1.5 yrs
  • Ran a website called Adventure Monkey (photography and cycling) since 2009
  • Quit working this year to figure things out (simply cannot work behind a desk anymore. Plus I feel the need to be helping people in my job)
  • Ta-Da here I am today; 43 and trying to figure things out. I loved my medical bio classes and teaching A&P. I graduated in 1994 with a 3.64 GPA. 
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I qualified for financial aid at multiple local community colleges, pursuing an A.S. degree (though I didn't complete it before getting admitted to a PA program) ... even though I already have a BBA and an MS.  Given the $/hour, I didn't look at the local universities.  

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See if UMKC has a post-bac or master's option for you; that way you can declare a degree and file for financial aid.  Otherwise, it's all on your own dime.

 

If UMKC can't do anything for you, then start exploring other options...you should be using the PAEA directory to find the schools which 1) you can apply to with the least amount of work involved and 2) you will be the most competitive at.  You may have to commit to an out of state school, but this the nature of professional schools...most of my prospects are over 1000 miles away because my application is competitive at said prospective schools and I can apply this year.  Got 2 interviews coming up so far.

 

Best of luck to you.

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  • Administrator

You should absolutely dip into your retirement--the rate of return on that money, even tax protected, is so much worse than what you would be paying in interest on private loans it's a clear winner... unless you have some weird odd tax situation, which you should talk to your tax advisor about.

 

Note: I just noticed you asked the same question twice.  I'm going to try and combine threads, since you've got answers in two places.

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Rev I did find out that I won't get penalized if I use IRA money for college. That may be the way to go. 

 

That is true.  Although if it's a traditional IRA you will have to claim disbursements as income for tax purposes.  (but there's no early withdrawal penalty; this is how I'm paying for my living expenses while in school and keeping my loan debt down).  

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I withdrew money to cover my PA school tuition in the one calendar year where I had essentially no other family income, so the income tax burden on that withdrawal was nil.  BUT, the year I started PA school (where I had an income through June) or ended (where I had an income after August) would have been a different story.

 

If your current income is low enough that you can get away with withdrawals for prerequisites while still working, that may be a valid approach... but again, a good tax advisor can easily be worth their fees.

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Basically, if you really want to pursue PA school it just make take more time. Personally, I would work full time, maintain my health insurance, and slowly take courses as cheaply as I can find them. Yea, that may take you a few years to get all those pre reqs done but on the flip side, if you don't get in your first year, or at all, you won't have abandoned a career and sold job to do so.

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I quit working as a marketing and communication coordinator because sitting behind a desk was driving me crazy. I am freelancing and living simply to save money. I decided I am going to use my retirement to get my prereqs taken care of. I am also going to try to get a job at the local hospital. I am 43 and feel like I should make things happen and not wait around. Thank God I have the money to do it. 

 

I am going to search to see if I can find any scholarships, grants or financial aid for people in my situation. This was a scary decision but something I wanted to do since 1995 when I was a Biology teacher. Life just took me on quite the journey until now. 

 

Wish me luck. 

 

Eric

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Some of my prereqs were 35 years out of date when I decided to go back to school. I was old enough to take a draw on my 401(k) without penalty. Neither my wife nor I batted an eyelash. You are investing in yourself. What higher use could that money have?  

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  • 1 month later...

I don't have a lot of good financial advice because I am in the same boat.  I graduated in 1996 with a bio degree and only now have the opportunity to go back to school.  I have chosen to retake the classes at a community college if possible and online classes for those not offered.  It is much cheaper at the community college.

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  • 5 months later...

I qualified for financial aid at multiple local community colleges, pursuing an A.S. degree (though I didn't complete it before getting admitted to a PA program) ... even though I already have a BBA and an MS.  Given the $/hour, I didn't look at the local universities.  

 

Sorry- does this mean Associates of Science?

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I don't have a lot of good financial advice because I am in the same boat.  I graduated in 1996 with a bio degree and only now have the opportunity to go back to school.  I have chosen to retake the classes at a community college if possible and online classes for those not offered.  It is much cheaper at the community college.

Also (sorry if this is a dumb question) - my undergrad was in psych and my masters in social work. i never took bio or natural sciences. could i apply for another BA in biology? i never heard of this but that's an interesting thought. 

 

good luck!

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