Sunday, October 25, 2009

Not So Trivial Pursuit

chasing the Bachelor degree...continued

Now that I had the resolve to finish my Bachelor degree, I had to figure out how. Again, this was the third go at it – the previous two tries were limited to in-person attendance at a school and the necessary funds to pay for them. Two things I had little of were money and time. Now as I sought out a program, I was no more advantaged with money or time – but swift winds of change had brought about technological development – the internet. Fortunately, I had always been close to technological developments and I was very well-suited for internet-based offerings. Traditional universities had evolved to offer online classes and the possibility of completing a program in this way. It was the only feasible way for me, I thought, as a person with a family and full-time job. Finding a Bachelor program that could be completed through online classes without paying exorbitant tuition was a challenge. Sadly, in-state and out-of-state tuition levels exist even for online programs, which one would think would cross state or international boundary lines. Online classes were not just a convenient option for traditional students who did not or could not appear in a live class, they brought possibilities to untold numbers of people who could not attend classes due to a number of reasons. But that is a paper I wrote for a class…

Might I add that naturally, my search for this program was done exclusively online – a good indication that online programs can work for you – if you are already adept and comfortable with internet usefulness.

Let me tell you that when your criteria is a Bachelor program that can be completed all online, with in-state tuition, you have narrowed your search considerably – in fact, it narrowed to two options for me. Usually people choose a major or program according to interests or job-related skills. In my case, further consideration had to be given to the 100+ credit hours already in my possession from the four full years + a summer at LSU. Not to mention that many of the credits were in Architecture, Art and Design which would normally only apply to a similar degree. Program choices were becoming mighty slim.

My first attempt to start back to school in an online program was with UNT – University of North Texas. This was largely due to the program offerings they had posted on their website, which included a degree in Training. Having spent numerous years in Training and support, this was very appealing.

Alas, it was not to be. Just because a school offers an online program and classes does not mean they are evolved enough to understand how to apply it or make it work for the people who need them. The bad vibes started right away, when I contacted the counselor assigned to me alphabetically by my last name. I sent an email to this person – time went by – no response. I called and left messages – turning back to older technology. No response. I contacted another counselor for a different alphabetic grouping. That person did respond but couldn’t do the work for his fellow counselor.

Amazingly, I was simply trying to find out what classes from LSU could apply and what classes I needed to start. I had already applied and been accepted to UNT – sure, that process was easy because it involved taking my money. But I ran into wall after wall of zero information and incompetence at every turn. The counselor never ever contacted me. With further searching by phone all over campus, I talked to someone in the College of Education, which included the online program I sought. This person in an administrative position in the college informed me – a full-time working single mom with 3 kids – that it is a UNT requirement to appear on campus for a day of “Transfer Student Orientation” to even be evaluated for the classes needed. When I explained (incredulously) that I’d have to take a day of vacation from work to drive up to Denton and sit around on campus JUST to be able to register for classes and that this did not seem reasonable for an online program, the administrator very rudely snapped “well, that is what most people expect to do when they decide to go back to school”. End of conversation as far I was concerned. The writing was on the wall – even if I did continue to go by their inane rules and start their program, I was going to be hurdling one giant obstacle after another. UNT was a school of people completely out of touch with the real world, like so many other institutions of education. I knew from experience from the college my kids were attending that it was possible to find a university with a professional, respectful attitude towards students.

This time, I was not a kid – I was a grown adult that had carried many responsibilities for decades and I was working for every dollar in my income. Excuse me, but I am not going to be blown away by the condescending arrogance of out-of-touch education administrators. In case you think I sound like a rebel with a history of fighting authority, quite the contrary. I very simply had a realistic view that I wanted a quality product for the thousands of dollars I was about to spend. Incompetence and unanswered promises were not going to be acceptable for me.

What a shame – UNT had what appeared to be a fine online program – in print, anyway – but absolutely no clue how to administer it and make it feasible for real people. They certainly were not interested in my worldly perspective on the subject either. I had wasted a good summer semester in this pursuit – but it was yet another stepping stone on the path of finding the answer. The $40 I had paid for application to UNT just became a contribution to their coffers.

Time to cut bait and move on.

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