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Question: In 2000, I finished my coursework for PsyD in Clinical Psychology. I could not write my dissertation to complete post-doctoral and graduate work, due to my spouse leaving the family home, then divorce. At the time our sons were age 6 and 9. My student loans are over $150k, and I want to start with a clean slate. However, consolidation of private and non-private loans are impossible to consolidate for one payment, that I can afford (I live in California).

I am working a job that I am over qualified for just to be employed. I want to use my skills in a fast profitable arena and pay down my student loan debt. How do I go about it? Children are 18 (in college) and 15 (lives with his dad). I am 58. Can you advise how to manage this situation? Thanks. - Pamela

Answer: Pamela, if at all possible see if you can complete your dissertation at your graduate institution. If necessary ask for an extension to complete. You can’t enter other schools unless you have no loans existing in your record, and your school would probably not release any transcripts until they are paid in full. You did all the hard work and just need to complete your dissertation. It would be another long road and greater debt to start over anyway.

Try to work with their financial aid office, and the director of the program where you studied. Probably you have extended the deadline to complete your degree, but try and see if they could grant an exception. You will need recommendations from the faculty in your program too. Consult with a financial planner as to how best to resolve your high student debt, and use all federal funding you can find. Also, go to a nearby community college and seek out some counseling to clarify your goals at this time as well. - Faith

Question: I am 38, and was a Warehouse Supervisor/Operations Manager for 15 years. I have 3 kids (6, 8 and 10 years old). I also have had a home business since 2000 (Bookkeeping and Tax Preparation). Last year I quit my management position because along with my home business, I was taking too much time away from my family. This is my first year working in just my home business which provides just enough income during the tax season to pay the bills for the rest of the year.

I would like to invest my time wisely while my kids go to school (8-3 pm) and better prepare myself with a business or computer science degree, or something that can help me to be a successful professional. Any suggestions as to what areas could benefit me the most given my background and interests? All feedback is appreciated. Thank you. I live in Texas. - Julio

Answer: Julio, first I would review information contained in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. This will give you an idea of the type of jobs that are available now and those that will be needed in the future. You have a good background in business, finance and operations management. You might want to start at your local community college, or as many degree programs are now online, they may better fit your schedule.

Look into taking CLEP tests in areas of: English Composition, Spanish (if you are fluent) and others as may seem appropriate for you. Also, look for a bachelor degree program that uses portfolio for college credit as your financial experience may award you some credits too. Unless you go full-time to school it will take you longer to complete a bachelor's degree, so as you get your study skills down, you may want to take an accelerated program. - Faith

Question: I am 65 and considering going to back to college to finish my degree in psychology (I have three years completed). I want to work with abusive women. At my age, I am sure I could bring wisdom along with a degree into this field. I have worked in the public schools in Georgia for fifteen years, am recently retired, but still feel that I have not reached my calling. What do you think at my age? - Odyssey

Answer: Odyssey, you are never too old to go back to school, but you do have to have realistic expectations about the job hunt. A bachelor's degree in psychology does not guarantee clinical work as that usually requires a master's degree. But, there are entry level positions that you would be educationally qualified to earn. You would want to find an adult-friendly college or university to accept any credits you may have that are over 5-10 years old.

There are not as many psychology degrees that are focused on the adult student, but there are more online degree programs for selection. I did not find any land-based degree programs in your area, so you may want to consider online learning. Make sure the school has regional accreditation. - Faith

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