Actually most DO qualify for financial aid when going through a technical school or college. There is such a thing as FASFA, which is a federal grant for school that 95% of people qualify for that are making under 75k a year. All you do is apply for it and it covers up to 5800/year for tuition, fees and equipment. Another thing is I don't know where you are, but here in GA and a few other states I have NEVER seen a tech college or school cost that much for their CDL program. That is most likely a CDL mill school price!
I see what you mean. For instance, like me here with Knight Transportation. Yes, it is a contract free program, but it does cost 3400. We sign a promissary note that I can keep paying on (25/ week until paid off with 0% interest) even if I decide to leave the company (only 1 other company in the industry does this type of program, Millis Transfer). I can pay it off early or not, but either way I can leave if I feel the need to and I don't have a company starving me for miles and than holding a contract over my head saying "well if you leave you will have to pay back the loan or the penalty to us for leaving". And yes, I get 400/wk during my training, but in the end, I am making more than I am paying out. The training pay starts at 35-44 sliding scale. so lets say I get all long loads and average 2500 (low end for slow season here) is 875 before all taxes and deductions. Quite frankly, 875 is a decent check for someone coming in to the business being compared to other starter companies out there. Now lets say you averaged 2500 miles but it was a mix of some short loads, so your average pay is actually 39 cpm. That brings it up to 975 (more reasonable for a rookie because they want you to run the shorter runs to get more practice backing for a month or so). So that is still not bad i my book!
Either way it all comes down to what you are looking or in a company and if THEY can offer it to you! Do not settle for anything less than what you are expecting out of a company. talk to drivers and see how they like the company and the training and all.
I'm not sure how it is elsewhere, but for some reason the schools here in Ohio seem to not be comparable with FAFSA federal aid. I got offered a pretty decent Pell grant (and whatever the other one is) last time I filled it out due to my income, but apparently the course has to be for credit toward a degree program to be covered-- none that I've found in Ohio are.
Last time I looked in to it, there was one school in Arizona that had a "long course" that was covered by that, but so far nothing local.
Here's hoping I get some good news from my recruiter on Monday. I know that it's gonna be a rough first year and it's ultimately probably a pretty lousy deal, but it's still an opportunity to get into the industry.