A request for help, monetary or otherwise

(This thread is posted with permission of the Mods–thanks!)

TL;DR Summary

I am requesting donations for $1200 to help me go back to school: $200 for a fee to maintain my place in the program until my student loans come in, and $1000 to help with relocation costs.


I’m going back to school. I hope. But let me rewind a little.

Three years ago (on April Fools Day 2009, seriously), I was laid off from my job as a tech writer. I went up north and tried to make a living there.

Starting Over

A year ago, I fled the north and my attempt at making a living there. There was just not enough work, and I had used up the severance pay I got after I was laid off. My savings were running out. I ended up living at a friend’s house, for what I was expecting to be maybe six months. It’s now been over a year.

No Work

During the past year, I’ve had dribs and drabs of part-time work here and there, but nothing consistent or lasting. I even did a comic book last February and March, and got paid for it. But that was the high point. The part-time jobs dried up. I was on welfare (called “Ontario Works” here), and the part-time work did not even fully offset that. And then a little later I inherited $2700 from my dad’s estate, enough to pay an insurance bill and a few other bills, but also just enough to kick me off welfare after May…

I’ve been going to YorkWorks, a job-search support agency in York Region, Ontario. They helped me with my resume and all that standard stuff, and also with the more social aspects of job-hunting, things that I wasn’t truly aware of. But applications for full-time work yielded almost no responses. In a year, I’ve had five interviews, and only two of those were in person, and both of those were at a job fair, rather than being called in.

As far as I can tell, there’s no demand for technical writers who don’t have another set of skills. I’ve seen job ads for tech writers with a medical background, tech writers with a financial background, tech writers with an aerospace background, tech writers with electrical-distribution backgrounds, tech writers with software-development backgrounds, tech writers with marketing backgrounds. I have seen exactly one ad for a tech writer with an electronics background, which is what I have. And I didn’t get the job.

A New Plan

So I looked around. What things could I add to my existing set of skills? I decided that I wanted to learn more about making ebooks. I could even do my comics as ebooks. This was just before Apple’s announcement of their ebook creation software and publishing service, so it was in the news.

But ebooks are new and the whole field is still in flux. I could find no school programs specifically to reach ebook creation skills. Some research <insert link here> showed that the skills I needed for ebook design were many of the skills needed for web development. And there were many programs available for web development.

Would it be possible to go back to school to take web development?

With the assistance of my caseworker at YorkWorks, I applied to a program put on by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities called "Second Career’. It is intended to provided support for retraining people to acquire specific skills to make them more employable. My caseworker at YorkWorks and I filled out the application. We did labour-market research, worked out a budget, and included a report I had made showing the commonality of skills between ebook development and web development, based on the skills requested in job listings.

I applied to several colleges. I accepted an offer from one.

Road Block

However, last week I was informed that I was not eligible for support from Second Career.

I had also applied for a standard student loan through OSAP, the Ontario Student Assistance Plan. I hadn’t heard back from OSAP, and it was only three weeks until my hypothetical not-yet-paid-for classes start.

At this point, it looked like I would not be going back to school. Unless I heard from OSAP Real Soon, I was going to have to call the college and give up my spot.

So I called the college, and, this time, got through. They informed me thai I need to file an “OSAP deferral form” at the college to hold onto my spot, and that this would cost $200. They will then accept payment when the OSAP loan arrives. So there’s still a chance!

Once I pay this, I can start looking for a place to live in the short time I have left, and hope that OSAP actually lends me money similarly to what their estimate suggested. Then I can start classes and be on a new road.

But I have no savings or anything left, and have pretty much tapped out all local friends and family members who would possibly be in a position to lend me money. Most of them are as broke as I am, but at least have steady work… and some of them have been giving me a place to live all these months.

My Request to the SDMB

So I ask the members of the SDMB, would you be able to contribute to paying these expenses, to get me over this roadblock and into classes in a new city?

I am hoping for $200 for the college fee, plus $1000 to cover travel/gas to the new city and a “last month’s rent” payment to secure a place to live.

I’m assuming $800 per month for an apartment–that’s what we budgeted for in the Second Career application after looking at online listings–but I’m really hoping to get it below that.

I’m hoping that the OSAP loan comes through by the time I actually have to pay the first month’s rent. And there’s a tax refund I’m hoping for, but who knows how long that will take? And I’ll see whether my existing five-year-old laptop will do for the course, when they recommend a newer model in the same line.


You left out the most important piece of information: if someone *wanted *to send you money, how would they do it?

I knew there was something. :smack:

My email is in my profile, accessible by clicking on my username. Paypal and Interac are via the same address.

check your PMs

Well, okay. Just don’t got blabbing our real-life names around the internet, okay?

And why is the Canadian dollar not worth less than the American dollar, as God ordained?

And for the record “Second Career” is absolutely the most bizarre program ever. My friend basically got told taking a human interest course about KNITTING while in the process of applying would disqualify her.* She gave up, not because she wanted the knitting class so badly but she doesn’t have the temperament to deal with the hoops and tunnels that Second Career put her through. It was making her paranoid… she decided her mental health was worth more than the potential gain for the education. Of course she has a better financial cushion than most.

But yeah, Second Career is horrid.
*Because “easy scarf knitting” could be construed as a marketable skill, you see.

What college offers this course?

What town did you move from, and to what town did you move?

And how will the $1200 help if OSAP says ‘Nay’? Won’t you have paid for a course you can’t afford to attend? Or be homeless while taking? Most people wait for OSAP approval before accepting and paying tuition, at least while I was at the uni.

I’m kind of confused, can you fill in some details, please?

I know of an online class that teaches the specific skills you need for $250. So I can save you a thousand bucks if that’s really what you want and this whole thing isn’t some kind of scam. PM me if you want more info.

In fairness, he is upfront about using $1000 of his hoped-for $1200 for living expenses, moving costs and rent, not tuition.

I wouldn’t hold your breath for a PM…

It seems that he needed the living expenses were required because a move was required. For some reason I can’t read the entire OP closely. I try, but I end up skimming.

Point taken, on the living expenses. But wouldn’t you be waiting for the OSAP approval before moving cities, and paying fees to hold spots? I didn’t move to where I went to uni till I knew I’d have some income from OSAP to pay the bills. I’m not saying it’s a scam, or anything, it’s not that.

It just seems kind of backward, as it’s described, is all.

I am however, sincerely interested in the school with the ebook course, that sounds very intriguing to me, and I’d love to learn more about it.

Donation sent!

Done. Best of luck, whatever you decide to do.


Thank you, everyone! I am surprised by your generosity.

tnetennba, I’d be interested in hearing more.

The programs I applied for were among those that Second Career would support, so they had to be approved by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Only programs two years or less were acceptable. I inquired about getting some of the more focused commercial-oriented skills training, but was told they wouldn’t support those courses. Which is a shame, because I could have gotten the skills in less time…

I applied for OSAP at the same time as Second Career as a backup, but wasn’t really expecting that Second Career would turn me down and I would need OSAP. The college told me on Friday that they should be hearing from OSAP next week. If things had happened according to original plan, I would have been accepted into the SC application process in October, and would possibly have started OSAP in February, but it took a second try in April to start the SC and OSAP process.

Just a heads-up, OSAP is also a different circle of hell. Not as bad as Second Career, but the pay out is poor for the amount of work they make you do. You will most likely be approved, but it won’t be riches. Second Career is more lucrative, but at this point, if it is OSAP or nothing, then you will have to make do.

Sunspace, call me. I know that you have my contact information.

Ok, now I’m curious why you’re avoiding answering the questions you were asked?

What city are you moving to/from?

What college is it?

Wow. I am debating whether to reply because all the things I have to say are going to make me sound like a dick, even though all I want to do is to be helpful. Nevertheless, not saying what I have to say is worse than saying it.

I’m just going to leave aside all of the issues regarding finances, fundraising, moving across the country, dealing with government agencies, etc. to focus on one thing that to me seems at the core of this issue.

You say that you want to learn about the eBook industry because it is new and in flux. Well, it is not remotely new and the flux it is in is not a good sign for job opportunities, unless you are at the very forefront for developing of writing software for the newest hardware devices. The New York Times first published on the web in 1996. I, myself was hired at a startup that made eBooks and nothing but eBooks in 1999. The movers and shakers of the eBook industry have been working in it for 15 years. There is nothing new about it. It is a very well established industry and many believe we have passed the peak of the technology adoption curve.

The part of the industry that is in “flux” is marketing and sales, and not in a good way. There was a period of time where profit margins on eBooks surpassed those of traditional print, and by quite a bit. That fact inevitably drew in competition. We now have Google, Amazon, and Apple going head to head in an industry that has been shrinking for decades. Apple has reduced eBook prices from $14.99 to $9.99. That is a 33% decrease, and it isn’t because of increased efficiencies - that money comes right out of profits, and it’s being done to grab market share.

This kind of a turf war means lower profits and little hiring. When they do need people, they can hire the best and brightest who are getting laid off from the print publishers. The skills of editors, technical writers, layout folks, etc. are transferable. Nobody is getting to the front of the line because of their newly acquired mad html skillz.

Harsh, I know, but it is the reality. I’d hate to see anyone invest a couple of years of their life in something only to find out that the market doesn’t really exist for those new skills. If you had a college aged kid in 2012 who wanted to major in Journalism so as to get a good job in the newspaper industry, would you encourage them or sit them down for a long heart to heart.

I can see that you’re not happy at all in your professional life and you can see a place where the grass is greener, but that field may just have had their irrigation well go dry.

I’d suggest you put on the brakes hard, get a job that pays the bills, whether in your field or not (most likely not) and do some serious research into what the emerging fields are and what jobs are going to be in demand before you invest anything more in your education. Higher education does not provide the automatic return on investment that it did up to the very recent past - not by a long shot.

Good luck.

When you say you have an electronics background, do you mean your background is in circuit design and the like? And yes, I (hopefully) have a reason for asking.