Thursday, November 02, 2006

Graduation plans? Hold on there, sister

My young friend and former student "Delia" is getting hosed by the university. She's a senior with several impressive majors and makes excellent grades. She did a semester abroad last year and came into her penultimate semester of college thinking she was on track for grad-jee-ation.

Then she started getting her chain jerked by various advisers. One said, sure, you're all set, with enough credits and upper level hours to get that sheepskin next spring. Then another adviser says bah humbug to that and tells Delia that she's a whopping 21 hours short of her upper level credits. That's more than another full semester of college to deal with--and tens of thousands of dollars that dear Delia would have to come up with between now and mid-2007.

Of course, it's all just another load of booshwa from a school that tries to squeeze as many dollars out of its undergrads as it can. Delia is no dummy. She plotted her college career with diligence, getting all the core courses out of the way early and ripping through those majors with relative ease. She's worked like a little demon at off-campus and on-campus jobs and lived on next to nothing while her well-off classmates jazzed past her in their new cars on their way home to condos their parents bought for them.

So what's the deal? Well, back when I worked at the uni on the hill, I heard many stories like this. Seniors would get midway into what they thought was their final year of college and be told that, oh no, more hours were needed or that there were NEW requirements in place that they would have to adhere to before they could get outta the joint.

Regularly, the department secretary would inform juniors and seniors that because of the limitations on class size, they would have to stick around another year or TWO to get their upper levels done. There just weren't any more seats in those last few courses (which was never actually true), so they'd have to take them next year.

This is all ridiculous, of course. But I learned early on that nothing is more important than the retention of the paying customer. So what if scholarships run out and loans have reached six figures? Delia was told by her advisers that she could "transfer to another school to graduate" if she was unhappy with having to do more time.

Transfer? During her senior year?

I want to hear your stories about this ugly trend. Are colleges really hurting for money this badly? Do they really need to penalize good students for getting through in a mere four years?

Leave comments. Long as you want. Vent! Venti!


Blogger Jess said...

They tried to pull that same fast one on me at your former uni. I was set to graduate early and they were telling me that no, I would in fact have to do an extra semester at least. No love for the scholarship kids! I threw a major fit and managed in the end to get the diploma in 3.5 years, but not without a huge fight with my advisor. I think this is why they keep changing the degree plans in the Comm dept...trying to get Ashley and Brad to stick around and spend daddy's money another semester.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Lauren said...

All my friends who went to (non-flagship) state universities are taking the five-year route, and knew they would have to do so early in their sophomore years. At first, I thought it was their fault; I mean, if they publish a catalog of graduation requirements, how hard is it to chart out courses for the next four years? But then, as they started to talk about the mad rush to sign up for needed classes before they close, changing requirements, and semesters of student teaching that prevent them from taking upper-level courses, I began to wonder if maybe it is the institutions that are the problem.

I don't see why more colleges don't operate as mine does- you can graduate under any set of requirements posted during your time as a student, so there are no magically-appearing classes to take senior year. Advisors actually know their students and the requirements, and they know that taking an extra semester or two is a red flag for graduate school admissions. The major classes required for graduation are always open to students within the major. And if for some reason a class is full, you show up to class anyway, knowing that the professor will be glad to take you once the first wave of students drop, usually right after the syllabus is handed out.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Mustang04 said...

Back during my days at the "uni on the hill" I decided to complete my (unpaid) internship for credit during the summer. The problem was that I had to enroll in the "internship class" to receive credit- the same one that cost over $3,000.

Yup, $3,000 for the 3-hours of credit awarded upon the completion of 40+ hours of an unpaid internship.

I ultimately fought my way out of it, but it took a dozen or so trips to various deans, assistant deans and helpful assistants to keep my cash.

2:10 PM  
Blogger wolfa said...

Undergrad uni: was a provincial law that students had to be able to finish a degree in the normal number of years. So courses had to be scheduled such that you could do it. They could fill up, but there were ways in place to ensure you could get the credits. Also, if your advisor signed off on your planned schedule, then you were ok with following that, even if it didn't match the posted requirements. And if they changed the requirements after you were registered in a program, you could always choose which plan to take.

Lots of problems with the school, but you could always graduate on time if you didn't fail courses. (And if you weren't doing something like joint honours in physics and biology with a minor in art history -- too many credits to do in the normal time.)

Grad school: lots of departments had warnings that it was impossible to finish all the requirements in less than 5 years (for undergrad), oh well.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My school does things the right way...while the curriculum must change over time (at least in Engineering, where I'm most familiar), the changes are announced two years before they take effect and even then are only binding for new students who enter after the two year "announcement" period.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At my school (University of Waterloo), you're bound by the requirements as stated in the undergraduate calender (not so much a calender as a several-hundred page tome outlining all university regulations, details on all courses offered in all faculties at the university, and degree requirements for all programs) at the time you enter your program. The university maintains all of the calenders online dating back to the 1973-74 schoolyear. Is it so difficult to create that sort of accountability at a private university? Or would that cost them too much money, as they'd not be able to hoodwink poor students? I wonder if she could press fraud charges, as they're intentionally misrepresenting themselves so as to exploit her.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At SMU you are bound by the catalog you entered under. So if you began in say, 2004-2005, and they changed the requirements for the 2006-2007 catalog, your graduation STILL DEPENDS ON the requirements set out in the 2004-2005 catalog.

This bait-and-switch-requirments has happened with professors trying to get tenure too, with not so great results .

3:45 PM  
Anonymous oliviacw said...

At my undergrad university (big-name, private), you were held to the requirements in effect when you entered (for the general degree), or you could opt to follow a later set, but you did have to meet the whole set, you couldn't mix-and-match. Then for a major, again, it was always either what was in effect when you declared, or a later set, but you got to chose which. They always warned students to hang on to all of the catalogs and requirements handouts so that you could prove what was in effect.

Plus, they were generally fairly good about petitions for changes if you had a reasonable substitution.

If you wanted to get out in 4 years, it could always be done with any given single major, if you planned correctly.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn! I must have done something wrong. I finished up in December of my normal Senior year thanks to some A.P. credits and never taking less than a full load of courses every term. Of course, the department I was majoring in had a rule that gave preference on required courses to declared majors.

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Ragman said...

Jeez, maybe she should have gone to UTD. They can't WAIT to get your ass out of the school. They purposely changed the tuition scale to discourage part time students(their words, not mine). Three credit hours cost a grand, 15 cost $3600. Some of the bachelor's are pushing 130 hours, then they say you really ought to coop/intern a couple of semesters, then expect you to still get it all done in 4 years.

My beef is with UTD acting like non-traditional students aren't worth it.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Mike M. said...

When I was at SMU many years ago -- back when grass was green and dinosaurs roamed the earth -- you could graduate under any catalogue that was in effect during your time at the university. Graduating in four years was the norm if you had any sense at all and paid attention to your requirements. Required courses for graduation were open to majors first. Plus, if you followed the sage advice that Brad Carter, my Poli. Sci. adviser, gave me in our first meeting and made fast friends with the department secretary and were nice to her when you didn't need anything, even insoluble problems were quickly and mysteriously resolved in your favor. I had all my courses finished in my two majors, economics and political science, by my first semester of my senior year. Most by my junior year. I used most of my senior year to get a minor in philosophy. So to summarize, my experience was almost diametrically opposed to that which you report.

12:43 AM  
Anonymous renita said...

my small liberal-arts alma mater had requirements that made sense: you stuck with what you started with. they also had a guarantee that if you followed all the rules and still couldn't get out in 4 years, they'd pay for the extra -- though i'm not sure they ever forked the dough over for that.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So many of my classmates at SMU had the same problem of finding out during their SENIOR YEAR that they had not met X, Y and Z requirements to graduate. My family was shocked at how many people walked across that stage at graduation with the announcement "will receive degree in August." Luckily, I was one of the few that (barely) met all the requirements to graduate on time in May. But too many people I know got screwed over by poor advising and did the "Victory Lap."

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She can get out of it easily enough. Tell her to look at her eDPR (electronic degree progress report). What it says, goes. Also, if the requirements change, she does NOT have to go by the new hours. She can petition to use the 'old' degree(s) plan that existed when she declared the major(s).

If she's proactive on it, there's no way she won't graduate! :)

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in the UK, you finish in 3 years, period. If you think you might fail, you can ask permission to repeat one year, but you seldom get it. Fail an exam, and you might get permission to resit it in the summer (but only in your first or second year). You can go part time, but you must finish in a set number of years (usually 6 or fewer).

Also, I did my Master's in 9 months and my PhD in 3 years. And that's the expected schedule...some PhDs take an extra 6-9 months to write up (for which no fees are charged), but that's all the time you get. I do love it here!

3:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At my university (Bishop's), there are so many victory-lappers that I can't even count them (for a variety of reasons) and I am one of them. My story is pretty common, and one that occurred with several of my friends- more specifically, the ones who went abroad to Spain, or tried to get Spanish credit for courses taken abroad. Although you are supposed to get permission for your classes before you go (which I understand completely), often European universities post the semester's courses at the last minute, so you get approval for a course that isn't offered and then you have to take something else. The langugages chair informed me of this, but also said that it was perfectly acceptable to request permission to take other courses once abroad. Yeah right! I and countless others found out once abroad that she would play games, not respond to emails, or contact you at the end of the semester to say you wouldn't get credit. After all of that, I came back and switched majors for good. I am now perfectly contented with another major, but not my student debt.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coming off academic suspension, I was told all I need to do is pass English to be in good standing with the university. I passed; they kicked me out completely... Talk about bilking me out of tuition!

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how about smu halts the major building campaign they undertook within the last several years? that ought to save several million dollars. i graduated in 2002 and after visiting the campus last year, i am shocked at the number of new buildings...the place was barely recognizable!

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The same thing is happening to me right now at this same school and for the same reason. I'm just sucking it up and taking the 21 hours in one semester. I'll be graduating in December,as planned.

4:19 PM  
Blogger AtheneBelle said...

I don't know if I'm being had but they pushed me into a major program I don't want because I've been there too long without one. I already know that it's going to mean another 3 years on top of my already Three and a half years...and this is for a bachelors!!!

1:46 PM  
Anonymous rajat said...

hey from india ..BITS university in such probs take s 4 yrs nd thats it...the whole schedule is already charted out for u.depending on ur major...that is apart from ur electives !!..good life here....enjoying the beaches of goa too!

4:14 PM  
Anonymous FormerGradStudent said...

At my grad school dept they milked us for every fee they could. Even rental of my graduation gown is costing more than $100!! In addition, grad students had to sign up for 9-12 "research hours" - hours paying your advisor to work with you. That's all fine and good - but most departments and universities don't ask for nearly that much. The reason my dept did that is something about the number of tuition hours being linked to state $$$. Ridiculous indeed!

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My school SMU is pretty fair about graduation requirements. They are lined out for you at the beginning of your career and are not altered for your specific class of students.

But what they get their $$$ for is hosing transfer students. SMU is very picky about hours transfer and you can bet you'll be re-taking all the courses you've already completed over again.

Took 9 hours during the summer at your local college? Won't transfer.

Piled up 30-36 hours at your other school? Hmmm, you'll get 3-6 hours.

And don't even think about community college course transfers....


8:19 PM  
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8:58 PM  

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