Spouse and COA

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AT9
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Spouse and COA

Postby AT9 » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:33 pm

So right now I'm working and my wife is in her senior year of undergrad. Next year we're going to switch positions as I start law school and she begins working. What's the best way to estimate a spouse's impact on COA when the spouse does not currently have a job lined up? If I had no spouse, it would be easy to total up tuition, fees, and living expenses for a clean COA figure. But there's a huge unknown with a spouse who plans to work.

I don't want to assume that my wife would be able to snag a job right off the bat wherever we move, but I also don't want to assume that she won't be able to land something within a year or so that can pay most of the bills. She's smart, pretty, social, etc., so there's no problem there. But her undergrad institution has basically 0 name recognition in the city of almost every law school I'm considering, her degree isn't super marketable, and she has little work experience.

Should I assume she won't be able to cover COL the first year? 2 years? Longer?

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hichvichwoh
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby hichvichwoh » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:44 pm

I somehow doubt anyone on here is going to have any additional information about how likely your spouse is to find a job.

daryldixon
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby daryldixon » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:46 pm

hichvichwoh wrote:I somehow doubt anyone on here is going to have any additional information about how likely your spouse is to find a job.

+1

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AT9
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby AT9 » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:53 pm

daryldixon wrote:
hichvichwoh wrote:I somehow doubt anyone on here is going to have any additional information about how likely your spouse is to find a job.

+1


My question is not "how likely it is that my spouse will get a job." I'm trying to figure out the most prudent way to estimate COA with the possibility of a working spouse. How have people in similar situations handled this?

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kay2016
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby kay2016 » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:59 pm

AT9 wrote:
daryldixon wrote:
hichvichwoh wrote:I somehow doubt anyone on here is going to have any additional information about how likely your spouse is to find a job.

+1


My question is not "how likely it is that my spouse will get a job." I'm trying to figure out the most prudent way to estimate COA with the possibility of a working spouse. How have people in similar situations handled this?



My advice would be to plan on her not finding a job.

Make sure you're comfortable going somewhere for whatever the cost is + living expenses.

If she finds a job, you can always take out less in loans 2nd semester or year 2 or 3.

I feel like having to take on less debt than previously thought is better than the alternative.

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rinkrat19
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby rinkrat19 » Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:00 pm

So, you're asking us to budget for you? You're the married couple; you should know how much it costs to feed and house yourselves.

From a logistics angle, take out the max loans fall term. If it turns out you need less because she either gets a job or the two of you magically live on less than one person's COL, take out smaller loans spring term, or even maybe pay some back.

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AT9
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby AT9 » Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:14 pm

kay2016 wrote:
My advice would be to plan on her not finding a job.

Make sure you're comfortable going somewhere for whatever the cost is + living expenses.

If she finds a job, you can always take out less in loans 2nd semester or year 2 or 3.

I feel like having to take on less debt than previously thought is better than the alternative.


Thanks for the input. Not a comfortable thought, but definitely the safest.

rinkrat19 wrote:So, you're asking us to budget for you? You're the married couple; you should know how much it costs to feed and house yourselves.

From a logistics angle, take out the max loans fall term. If it turns out you need less because she either gets a job or the two of you magically live on less than one person's COL, take out smaller loans spring term, or even maybe pay some back.


Don't remember asking for help with budgeting.

There's obviously a big difference between $100K at school A and $25K at school A because of a difference in COL, which is the uncertainty we'll be facing come 4-5 months from now.

How would you approach that uncertainty when thinking about debt, total cost, etc?

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kay2016
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby kay2016 » Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:25 pm

Maybe approach it by thinking of the costs you guys will share (rent/food/entertainment maybe even) as in half?

Maybe if the spouse can't get a real job, they will be able to do something to at least cover that much? At least over the course of the 3 years.

So if your COL would be say, $25 a year from your example, cut that down to 13 (or maybe something higher to be on the safer side).

So then that would make it a 25k vs 64k decision instead of a 25k vs. 100k decision

Obviously, that's not a perfect way to think about it because having a spouse won't cut your expenses in half, but.. Maybe a way to help you think through your cycle.

sasquatchsam
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby sasquatchsam » Tue Nov 05, 2013 4:59 pm

My wife and I are facing a similar issue. It is very hard to determine the cost of attendance when it relies on if your spouse can obtain employment (and the quality of that employment). I think it is best to be conservative...it is likely that your spouse will find some kind of employment, so just make a low estimate of their likely salary and budget accordingly. You might have to make different estimates based on the schools you are looking at attending. Wages in Palo Alto are not the same as Charlottesville.

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AT9
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby AT9 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 1:07 am

Thank you both or the input. I'm happy that my spouse will be able to work, since it works out best for us both. But, it's difficult weigh possibilities with such a huge unknown.

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grungy89
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby grungy89 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 2:06 am

i am in a similar dilemma and all of the schools I've contacted about adjusting COA limits for borrowing will only make an adjustment with documented proof of child care expenses if you are a parent, but will not raise it simply because you have a second mouth to feed ( i.e. spouse)

If your question is whether your COA will go down because you have a working spouse then the answer is obviously no

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fundamentallybroken
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby fundamentallybroken » Wed Nov 06, 2013 2:22 am

grungy89 wrote:i am in a similar dilemma and all of the schools I've contacted about adjusting COA limits for borrowing will only make an adjustment with documented proof of child care expenses if you are a parent, but will not raise it simply because you have a second mouth to feed ( i.e. spouse)

If your question is whether your COA will go down because you have a working spouse then the answer is obviously no


This, and the advice on assuming your wife will find no work are the best answers you've got so far.

My wife and I had a similar situation as I entered law school, though with my wife it was the ending of a federally funded contract job. It took her nearly a year to find another job, so we were left living off loans and our savings. It was not easy, but we made it work.

COA at any school is fixed. As grungy said, you can't just up your loans to account for higher costs of living except in certain circumstances: child care and independent health insurance expenditures are pretty much the only things that will up your eligibility as far as cost of living goes.

So, make sure you have some savings behind you before you enter school, just in case your wife can't find a job right away. Also, make sure you have some scholarship money coming your way - it won't increase the money you actually get to live off from loans, but it will help to ensure your total debt stays at least manageable for after school. Finally, make friends with your financial advisor at school - he/she can help you squeeze a little more money out here and there if its absolutely necessary.

Void
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby Void » Wed Nov 06, 2013 7:48 am

As a practical matter, you can just refuse COA checks when it comes time to collect them from your school. If you don't pick them up in a certain amount of time they just get sent back/cancelled and it's like you never borrowed that amount. So there's really no reason to worry about this- just request the maximum and then decide/adjust accordingly when you have a better sense of what you need

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AT9
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby AT9 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 4:35 pm

What I'm gathering is that you can only borrow the estimated COA as calculated by the school. Is that right? Do schools generally offer enough financial aid/loans for a married couple to live off of for each year without another source of income?

I like the idea of taking out the max the school will give, living cheaply (as we do now), and then adjusting the amount based on if/when my wife gets a job. But, I'm just getting my feet wet in the world of student loans, so I don't know if thats possible without other funding like savings, etc. I really appreciate all of your insight.

Void
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby Void » Wed Nov 06, 2013 5:49 pm

AT9 wrote:What I'm gathering is that you can only borrow the estimated COA as calculated by the school. Is that right? Do schools generally offer enough financial aid/loans for a married couple to live off of for each year without another source of income?

I like the idea of taking out the max the school will give, living cheaply (as we do now), and then adjusting the amount based on if/when my wife gets a job. But, I'm just getting my feet wet in the world of student loans, so I don't know if thats possible without other funding like savings, etc. I really appreciate all of your insight.


Yeah you only get the max as calculated by the school through student loan borrowing. (You could borrow more privately through a bank or whatever, but that's a whole different can of worms). You should be able to see what the COA amount is somewhere on your school's website or elsewhere on the web- I remember being able to see mine ahead of time.

As for whether it's enough for two unemployed folks to survive, that depends entirely upon the amount (which differs by school) and your spending habits. This is totally anecdotal but if it helps you get a very general gist, I got about $8k per semester in an area where an apartment that could house two people comfortable went for about $800-$1200/month. So that's like living off of $16k annually with over half your income going to rent. In my situation, it would have been tough to do this without roommates and food rationing, but I was generally fine. Your mileage may vary.

The good news for you might be that the COA check gets doled out in full during the first week of your semester, so it's not like you get a bunch of tiny paychecks. So maybe the question for you is whether you and your wife can survive on (for instance) $8k until she finds a job.

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AT9
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby AT9 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:24 pm

Void wrote:
AT9 wrote:What I'm gathering is that you can only borrow the estimated COA as calculated by the school. Is that right? Do schools generally offer enough financial aid/loans for a married couple to live off of for each year without another source of income?

I like the idea of taking out the max the school will give, living cheaply (as we do now), and then adjusting the amount based on if/when my wife gets a job. But, I'm just getting my feet wet in the world of student loans, so I don't know if thats possible without other funding like savings, etc. I really appreciate all of your insight.


Yeah you only get the max as calculated by the school through student loan borrowing. (You could borrow more privately through a bank or whatever, but that's a whole different can of worms). You should be able to see what the COA amount is somewhere on your school's website or elsewhere on the web- I remember being able to see mine ahead of time.

As for whether it's enough for two unemployed folks to survive, that depends entirely upon the amount (which differs by school) and your spending habits. This is totally anecdotal but if it helps you get a very general gist, I got about $8k per semester in an area where an apartment that could house two people comfortable went for about $800-$1200/month. So that's like living off of $16k annually with over half your income going to rent. In my situation, it would have been tough to do this without roommates and food rationing, but I was generally fine. Your mileage may vary.

The good news for you might be that the COA check gets doled out in full during the first week of your semester, so it's not like you get a bunch of tiny paychecks. So maybe the question for you is whether you and your wife can survive on (for instance) $8k until she finds a job.


As a point of clarification: can you borrow the max COA (including tuition) regardless? Or only your specific tuition costs + their estimated COL?

For instance let's say the total COA at a school is $50K per year ($35K tuition and fees, $15K estimated COL), but I have a $20K scholly. Would my borrowing limit be $50K or $30K?

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rinkrat19
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby rinkrat19 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:26 pm

AT9 wrote:
Void wrote:
AT9 wrote:What I'm gathering is that you can only borrow the estimated COA as calculated by the school. Is that right? Do schools generally offer enough financial aid/loans for a married couple to live off of for each year without another source of income?

I like the idea of taking out the max the school will give, living cheaply (as we do now), and then adjusting the amount based on if/when my wife gets a job. But, I'm just getting my feet wet in the world of student loans, so I don't know if thats possible without other funding like savings, etc. I really appreciate all of your insight.


Yeah you only get the max as calculated by the school through student loan borrowing. (You could borrow more privately through a bank or whatever, but that's a whole different can of worms). You should be able to see what the COA amount is somewhere on your school's website or elsewhere on the web- I remember being able to see mine ahead of time.

As for whether it's enough for two unemployed folks to survive, that depends entirely upon the amount (which differs by school) and your spending habits. This is totally anecdotal but if it helps you get a very general gist, I got about $8k per semester in an area where an apartment that could house two people comfortable went for about $800-$1200/month. So that's like living off of $16k annually with over half your income going to rent. In my situation, it would have been tough to do this without roommates and food rationing, but I was generally fine. Your mileage may vary.

The good news for you might be that the COA check gets doled out in full during the first week of your semester, so it's not like you get a bunch of tiny paychecks. So maybe the question for you is whether you and your wife can survive on (for instance) $8k until she finds a job.


As a point of clarification: can you borrow the max COA (including tuition) regardless? Or only your specific tuition costs + their estimated COL?

For instance let's say the total COA at a school is $50K per year ($35K tuition and fees, $15K estimated COL), but I have a $20K scholly. Would my borrowing limit be $50K or $30K?
$30k.

Loans are not intended to support a couple.

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grungy89
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby grungy89 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:49 pm

It is important that you understand that every dollar of scholarship takes a dollar away from loan eligibility. Are you currently finishing up your undergrad? If so, you could potentially take out some stafford loans for your current undergrad year that you don't need right now, but could help smooth the transition into law school while your wife finds a job.

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AT9
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby AT9 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:51 pm

rinkrat19 wrote:
AT9 wrote:
Void wrote:
AT9 wrote:What I'm gathering is that you can only borrow the estimated COA as calculated by the school. Is that right? Do schools generally offer enough financial aid/loans for a married couple to live off of for each year without another source of income?

I like the idea of taking out the max the school will give, living cheaply (as we do now), and then adjusting the amount based on if/when my wife gets a job. But, I'm just getting my feet wet in the world of student loans, so I don't know if thats possible without other funding like savings, etc. I really appreciate all of your insight.


Yeah you only get the max as calculated by the school through student loan borrowing. (You could borrow more privately through a bank or whatever, but that's a whole different can of worms). You should be able to see what the COA amount is somewhere on your school's website or elsewhere on the web- I remember being able to see mine ahead of time.

As for whether it's enough for two unemployed folks to survive, that depends entirely upon the amount (which differs by school) and your spending habits. This is totally anecdotal but if it helps you get a very general gist, I got about $8k per semester in an area where an apartment that could house two people comfortable went for about $800-$1200/month. So that's like living off of $16k annually with over half your income going to rent. In my situation, it would have been tough to do this without roommates and food rationing, but I was generally fine. Your mileage may vary.

The good news for you might be that the COA check gets doled out in full during the first week of your semester, so it's not like you get a bunch of tiny paychecks. So maybe the question for you is whether you and your wife can survive on (for instance) $8k until she finds a job.


As a point of clarification: can you borrow the max COA (including tuition) regardless? Or only your specific tuition costs + their estimated COL?

For instance let's say the total COA at a school is $50K per year ($35K tuition and fees, $15K estimated COL), but I have a $20K scholly. Would my borrowing limit be $50K or $30K?
$30k.

Loans are not intended to support a couple.


Evidently not. $15K (or something similar) is hardly enough to support two people for a year. Hopefully it won't need to be.

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AT9
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby AT9 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:55 pm

grungy89 wrote:It is important that you understand that every dollar of scholarship takes a dollar away from loan eligibility. Are you currently finishing up your undergrad? If so, you could potentially take out some stafford loans for your current undergrad year that you don't need right now, but could help smooth the transition into law school while your wife finds a job.


Nope, I'm working - but my wife is finishing up undergrad. What impact would the stafford loan have if we were to take it out for her remaining semester? She's going to a local public university, so we've been able to pay out of pocket so far.

As I said, just getting my feet wet here...

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grungy89
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby grungy89 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:11 pm

AT9 wrote:
grungy89 wrote:It is important that you understand that every dollar of scholarship takes a dollar away from loan eligibility. Are you currently finishing up your undergrad? If so, you could potentially take out some stafford loans for your current undergrad year that you don't need right now, but could help smooth the transition into law school while your wife finds a job.


Nope, I'm working - but my wife is finishing up undergrad. What impact would the stafford loan have if we were to take it out for her remaining semester? She's going to a local public university, so we've been able to pay out of pocket so far.

As I said, just getting my feet wet here...


when does she graduate and when do you plan on starting law school?

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AT9
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby AT9 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:21 pm

grungy89 wrote:
AT9 wrote:
grungy89 wrote:It is important that you understand that every dollar of scholarship takes a dollar away from loan eligibility. Are you currently finishing up your undergrad? If so, you could potentially take out some stafford loans for your current undergrad year that you don't need right now, but could help smooth the transition into law school while your wife finds a job.


Nope, I'm working - but my wife is finishing up undergrad. What impact would the stafford loan have if we were to take it out for her remaining semester? She's going to a local public university, so we've been able to pay out of pocket so far.

As I said, just getting my feet wet here...


when does she graduate and when do you plan on starting law school?


She'll probably have to finish up with a couple summer classes; I'm hoping to start next fall.

Void
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby Void » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:41 pm

AT9 wrote:
As a point of clarification: can you borrow the max COA (including tuition) regardless? Or only your specific tuition costs + their estimated COL?

For instance let's say the total COA at a school is $50K per year ($35K tuition and fees, $15K estimated COL), but I have a $20K scholly. Would my borrowing limit be $50K or $30K?


lol why would they give $50k in that scenario?

As someone else said, the idea isn't to support a couple. If you guys need more money you'll have to figure something else out.

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AT9
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby AT9 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:52 pm

Void wrote:
AT9 wrote:
As a point of clarification: can you borrow the max COA (including tuition) regardless? Or only your specific tuition costs + their estimated COL?

For instance let's say the total COA at a school is $50K per year ($35K tuition and fees, $15K estimated COL), but I have a $20K scholly. Would my borrowing limit be $50K or $30K?


lol why would they give $50k in that scenario?

As someone else said, the idea isn't to support a couple. If you guys need more money you'll have to figure something else out.


I have no idea - just wanted confirm that it's the individualized limit as opposed to the max school limit. I have a fellowship offer that pays a $4,000 per year stipend...it's starting to look better now.

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rinkrat19
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Re: Spouse and COA

Postby rinkrat19 » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:02 pm

AT9 wrote:
Void wrote:
AT9 wrote:
As a point of clarification: can you borrow the max COA (including tuition) regardless? Or only your specific tuition costs + their estimated COL?

For instance let's say the total COA at a school is $50K per year ($35K tuition and fees, $15K estimated COL), but I have a $20K scholly. Would my borrowing limit be $50K or $30K?


lol why would they give $50k in that scenario?

As someone else said, the idea isn't to support a couple. If you guys need more money you'll have to figure something else out.


I have no idea - just wanted confirm that it's the individualized limit as opposed to the max school limit. I have a fellowship offer that pays a $4,000 per year stipend...it's starting to look better now.

That also probably counts towards the total you are eligible for.




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