It sounds like you are you in Hammond? Ivy Tech has a great college in East Chicago. Instructors are a guy named 'Shack' (it is a nickname, I don't know his real name), and the Program Chair, a guy named Parnell. Both are knowledgeable in local industry, have experience in pipe and teach all processes.
Another option is Moraine Valley Community College, in Palos Park, IL. The head of the program there (as far as I know), is Jim Greer. The instructors out there have a great deal of experience and can advise you and help you figure out what makes the most sense for you to receive additional training.
Pipefitters union 597 is a great deal, but you do have to do an apprenticeship. This means that you will have to endure a year at less than $20 per hour, but in the second year you will be making about $25. Journeymen make $46.05 and hour, which is about 92 K per year, with pension, health and other benefits on top of that wage. But, with the overtime, most of the fitters I know have been making over 100K for the last 15 or more years. You need to figure if there is some way you can survive that year or two, in order to make a whole lot more in years to come. It is a tough call, and there are no easy answers. I understand your problem!
But, go and talk to the instructors at East Chicago or Moraine Park and see what they have to say. Those programs make it easy to get some training while working. The bottom line is, you aren't going to make that huge money without being in a union. Also, there are no more back doors into the unions; third party organizations now control admittance. This is to prevent lawsuits because of nepotism. (Remember, the only thing people hate about nepotism is that they ain't a part of it!!).
Feel free to email me if you have any more questions!