Let me begin by saying that I live in Raleigh and I also live on the NC State University campus. I am a non-traditional student who is preparing to enter the healthcare field.
If you are struggling to pay your loans, you may want to look into deferment or forbearance. This may not be the most attractive option since it is usually smart to pay off loans when you have the time to truly save money and pay. From your post, I assume that you are single without children. This is the absolute best time to take care of those loans!
If you're wanting to continue working in the position that you have now because you feel it will look better to UNC, then you must know that there are other options to obtaining healthcare experience that will potentially be impressive to the admissions committee.
You could volunteer (as you mentioned in your second option), but you don't have to volunteer at UNC. UNC has an application process for their volunteers and considering there are a lot of pre-med students who scramble for those volunteer positions, be aware that it could be very difficult or a very long wait to get a volunteer position with them. There are other options to volunteer: Low income clinics, walk-in clinics, other area hospitals (Duke and other Duke campuses, WakeMed and its campuses, REX...).
If you honestly know that you would not be able to focus on school after working from 9-4, then it's your call whether you take the night class and continue in that particular job. If you make a poor grade in this course, then you will absolutely HAVE to report it to the school that you apply to. I always suggest taking the option that is the cheapest because it is usually only a rumor that certain schools will look good to admissions committee. Let me put it this way: Which would look better? Prereqs at Durham Tech that are all As or Prereqs at UNC that are Bs and Cs? Only you know your academic potential. You sound as though you're worried about your financial situation, so for you it may be better to take courses at Durham Tech even if you feel you can ace courses at UNC.
If you show a commitment to pursuing your nursing degree, then UNC will take notice of that and it won't matter if you take the courses at Durham Tech. Volunteer in healthcare related setting as well as volunteer positions that show a passion for the community as a whole.
I am curious, though. Do you live in Durham? You mentioned Durham but you also mentioned how you graduated from NC State. Why not take the courses at Wake Tech?
Also, if you live in Durham, have you considered attending NC Central? That university has an ABSN program.
Becoming a nurse is not something to take lightly and neither is your financial situation. I appreciate the fact that you're taking careful consideration into your future regarding these matters.
If you have the money to do it, then I suggest completing your prereqs as soon as possible. You can halt or lower payments on your current loan(s) and do the same when you are admitted to the program. When you're actually in the nursing program
, you will be so busy that you more than likely will not be able to work.( This is debated between current nursing students, but I sense that if you're hesitant working your current job and taking only one course then you benefit from heavily focusing on school rather than working and attending school). In fact, most accelerated and even traditional nursing courses have a policy that students will NOT work during their time in the program!
Don't push yourself or cause yourself more debt just because you believe it will "look better". You don't want to risk performing poorly because, like I said, you will be required by any program to report ALL prior institution transcripts, even if you only took one course.
I know my answer may have not been what you were looking for, but only you know what you're capable of. You just need to be aware of the consequences if you're not honest with yourself and you also need to remember that showing a passion for people and healthcare will far outshine taking courses at a certain school or volunteering at a certain place.
All of that being said (sorry for the long comment) could you private message me about the position you currently hold? I am interested in pursuing this if you know of a position available for me. I have seen a post on Craig's List similar to what you described that you do, but I don't know if it is the same physical assistant job that you're currently doing. You mentioned how it was hard for those gentlemen to find someone to help them, so if it is relatively close to NC State, I would be interested in applying. Thank you!