Saturday, October 15, 2005
Thinking of Returning to School? Be Prepared for Some Shocking Surprises
The year was 1975. This was the year that I first decided to attend college and improve my life. Little did I know at the time that this would come back to haunt me 30 years later.
Two years ago last April, the company that I worked for closed its doors and left the area putting 277 people out of work however, it did give us the opportunity to return to school under the dislocated worker program for retraining.
I was really excited about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to return to school full-time. I proceeded to head out to Lane Community College (LCC) and spoke with an adviser who set up a really great two-year schedule so that by spring of 2005 I would have an Associates degree in both programming and networking.
Everything was going along great until six months into the program I ran into one small little detail that my advisor did not forewarned me about and it has haunted me like a cancer for the last year and a half and continues to come back and be an issue.
MAXIMUM CREDIT LIMIT
The maximum credit limit basically has to do with federal financial aid. to quote "Per federal regulations, students must complete a degree within 150% of the credits required for their program (source) a student is expected to complete a one-year program within 75 attempted credits for a two-year program within 150 attempted credits.
regulations require institutions to count all attempted credits even if financial aid was not received or coursework was not successfully completed. Attempted credits include audits, transfer credits, incompletes, dropped courses and repeat or failed classes.
Referring back to 1975, I earned 69 credits through the LCC automotive program.
In addition to those credits, during my lifetime I have taken one or two credit classes for extra knowledge and skills for my job.
As I found out the hard way, ALL of these credits are being counted towards the maximum credit limit.
Within six months of returning to Lane, and receiving this notice, I had to scrap one of my degrees and file an appeal and beg for the opportunity to continue in school.
So I filed the appeal and change my direction towards programming.
Based on my experience about the LCC CIT program, if you decide to go there for any computer related studies... DON'T.
Skipping ahead a little, towards the end of spring term this year, after finally resigning to the fact that I'm going to be in huge debt, I decided it might not be a bad idea to continue onto the University of Oregon and work towards my bachelor's degree while at the same time finishing up my associates degree in networking.
The University of Oregon and LCC, together have put together a program called dual enrollment. This allows a student to take classes at both colleges and still receive financial aid.
Well, 1975 comes into play again.
The University of Oregon, audited my transcripts and decided that 53 of those 69 credits were no longer valid (Yeah!) and they did not accept them. That is wonderful. However, that decision caused confusion between who will sponsor my financial aid.
University of Oregon handles all financial aid for anything above 90 credits otherwise LCC administers it.
so sports fans this put the score at... U of O 70 -- LCC 128. as a result, I lost the financial aid for the summer.
So I spent four weeks of summer term in addition to my classes making phone calls, e-mails, in person visits to both colleges trying to get this straightened out.
Fall 2005, thinking that I have financial aid taking care of, I start classes at the University of Oregon, and when I find out that they don't use calculators in trigonometry (see previous post) decided that since I am "duel enrolled" that I would take advantage of it and go to LCC for math.
The other factor was why was I subsidizing a kid to teach me trigonometry when I could go to LCC and have somebody with a master's degree for $100 less per term instruct me.
Starting a math class in the second week of the course can be a very difficult thing to do, and math is not my best subject. Concerned about the consequences if I failed this course, I started making some inquiries and was very shocked at what I found out.
The University of Oregon differs from LCC in that they figure that they paid for the credits for that class, and they want those credits completed. Reasonable. They do not want the money back; they want your time, which is normally paid back by taking two terms of two credit classes.
Normally, for everybody else, that would not be an issue however, I went to school at LCC in 1975 and earned 69 credits.
Remember when I said that the U of O disallowed 53 credits? That is only for their degree program, not financial aid.
The U of O for their maximum credit limit range is 270 credits. This means that if you have never received financial aid in your life, and you apply for financial aid for the first time with 250 attempted lifetime credits, that within 30 credits you would have reached the maximum credit limit and unless you could find other funding, you would have to drop out.
Therefore, even though I am starting out at the University of Oregon with 92 credits at junior status, technically, I'm a freshman which means I will not have enough financial aid to see me through the program.
The financial aid office advised me not to take any "unnecessary credits" and to try to complete my degree as soon as possible.
Therefore, in that regards, it makes me very thankful that I did not pursue the remaining three terms (36 credits) of the networking program at Lane Community College.
THE U OF O ACADEMIC ADVISER
The financial aid office recommended that I pay a visit to the U of O academic adviser for advice and to lay out a plan.
The adviser's advice... QUIT!
I definitely was not expecting that response.
He said that based on my academic credits, the large expense that I would be incurring and in his opinion that the U of O based on my background does not offer any courses that I would find of interest so his advice was to return to LCC and finish the associates degree or just quit and find a job.
So currently as I am writing this, I am taking of the two years of my life along with over $18,000 in loans, not to mention another $4000 that I paid out of my pocket for school and I find myself wishing that I never heard of LCC.
I believe the issue of the maximum credit limit needs to be brought to the forefront and dealt with because it is utterly ridiculous to punish somebody for trying to further their education just because they went to school 30 years ago.