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Today, my best friend texted me and said that he was going to drop out of college because he had been denied financial aid. He is very smart (1550+ SAT) and an incredible guy, but his parents have weird financials so that he is ineligible for need-based financial aid, even though he is broke without it. Our school doesn't offer merit-based aid. For him to stay in school next year, even with him working all summer, we need $30k, ten of which has to be paid by June. He is an international student, so lots of stuff is off the table, but he is also very popular. His girlfriend and I are willing to work like hell to help him pull this off.

Between people we know, we could probably raise $500 in the next week, but we have no idea where to go from there. Has anything like this worked before and how did they go about it?

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    You should also consider whether the best financial decision is to remain at the current college. If you need to raise another $30k next year, that is substantially different from needing to raise the money only once. – mattm Apr 6 at 23:16
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    "Our school doesn't offer merit-based aid" Find a school that does. There's no reason that a person with those test scores should have to pay for college. – D Stanley Apr 7 at 0:10
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it seems like spam. Really, no merit based scholarships? No options because they are an international student? This is a plea for money not a real question. – Pete B. Apr 7 at 10:48
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica That sounds like an interpersonal problem, not a personal finance problem. – TylerH Apr 7 at 14:33
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    To me, this is an XY problem. Are you trying to ensure your friend's future success? Keep your friend in a college? Or are you trying to keep him at your college because you're friends? Despite some overlap, these goals are independent from one another, and before you can solve the problem you must know what problem you're trying to solve. – Eric Seastrand Apr 7 at 20:59
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Might be a better investment to go to a different country and study. The US prices for education are incredibly overpriced (having taught at both European universities and an Ivy league university in the US, I can tell that the education is not much different).

It is also easier to get admitted to European universities - the difficult part is to actually complete the studies.

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    @chevybow for an international student who is already far away from home, most of that is a non issue. most courses in western european countries are taught in english, or english is supported very heavily. – Famous Jameis Apr 7 at 14:46
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    @chevybow Getting $30k of debts and having friends to beg for money isn't the solution for everyone either. – Eric Duminil Apr 7 at 14:48
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    @chevybow the expensive part is housing, but there are a lot of international students all over Europe. Moreover, all master level classes where I teach are taught in English, and there are also a lot of undergraduate classes in English. In scandinavia where I am from, English is a non-issue. Also, I moved 400km within my country when i was 15 to go to high-school. Everything is possible with enough motivation. – Per Alexandersson Apr 7 at 14:48
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    Assessing the US education system based on one Ivy League university is a false generalization. Yes, Ivy League schools are incredibly overpriced. You can get the same education (but fewer rich friends) at a state university for a small fraction of the cost. – Ben Voigt Apr 7 at 15:59
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    @Clockwork US dollar currency, the fact that one needs to pay rules out most European countries, the price, the reference to SAT (only US schools require SAT for admittance, to my knowledge), the fact that the parents finances has any influence of the (adult) kid's right to aid... – Per Alexandersson Apr 7 at 18:51
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  1. He could speak with a financial aid counselor to make sure he understands all of his options, including whether there are any policies/petitions that could take into account his parents' "weird financials". Is his situation really so rare that no one has heard of it? Or can he learn about what the possible outcomes have been in similar cases?

  2. While his school doesn't offer merit-based aid, he could apply for external merit scholarships. The school should have an office to advise on this.

  3. He could apply for student loans.

  4. He could try crowdfunding such as GoFundMe, especially if his story would be compelling to the public.

  5. Rather than dropping out, he could take a leave of absence to have time to raise the money (e.g., by working) and resume his studies later.

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    "Rather than dropping out, he could take a leave of absence to have time to raise the money (e.g., by working) and resume his studies later." If he's an international student, it's possible that his visa is tied to his enrollment, and he might have limits on how much paid employment he's allowed to have each week. – nick012000 Apr 7 at 6:17
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    "Middle class income but own a large illiquid asset." is a common enough problem for lots of families trying to qualify for aid even without the challenges of being international. – Affe Apr 7 at 16:17
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    @Affe I think most people solve that with 3, "a loan". – user3067860 Apr 7 at 20:22
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    @user3067860 Could easily be unable to take a loan - either because the illiquid asset isn't really worth what they have to claim it's worth, or because they are of a religion that doesn't permit borrowing, or ... lots of reasons that wouldn't work. Not to say they shouldn't explore it, though. I'd guess it's more likely a divorce and/or unwilling to support parent(s) that are causing the financials, though - that's by far the most common reason in my experience. – Joe Apr 8 at 19:55
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Given his circumstances I would go to a community college for significantly cheaper, and accumulate as many transferable credits as possible. While at the same time working and saving up as much money as possible. After one or two years, transfer to the college of your choice and continue working to pay off tuition. Many if not all colleges offer some kind of deferred payment plan so the money made working during the year should be enough to pay for college.

I don't believe being an international student affects community college tuition, but he should check this for the specific college he chooses.

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    This is solid advice. Community College was an incredible experience for me. And it cost me 1/10 what a 4 year university would. OP didn't mention the friend's major, but it's easily possible they'll earn just as much with a 2 year CC degree as a 4 year Uni degree. This is definitely the case in software development (my field). Unless you're going into medicine, law, or some other high-earning field inaccessible without those credentials, spending $30k on education is just silly. – Eric Seastrand Apr 7 at 20:50
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Tell him to cut his losses and get out of college while he still can! What a waste of time. Get a specialized certificate from a industry authority and you'll make much more money and spend tens of thousands less on the education! What a gimmick this U.S. college system. Here's a few examples of big money makers: rope access technician, security penetration testing, company GDPR/privacy officer...

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Crowdfunding for education

There is a crowdfunding site for individual goals, like Kickstarter. Common projects funded on it are for people's' education and healthcare. Take a look at some of the past projects and their marketing, and you might be able to replicate those successes.

https://www.gofundme.com/

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    Well, have a look at some of the success stories for education / college tuition fundraising. It is possible to get 2000 € to 3000 €, but I highly doubt people will pay 30.000$ per year. – Thomas Weller Apr 8 at 8:54
  • @ThomasWeller Have to agree --- it's a bad investment. – jpaugh Apr 9 at 20:32

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