Friday, July 27, 2012

Hoop Jumping

When I finished my Masters Degree from USF, one of the reasons I chose not to go into a PhD program right away was the administrative bull crap that comes along with any degree. It was not the work, it wasn't the research. It was the hoop jumping that was required.

I'm pretty organized. I learn my degree requirements and make sure I understand the program, what's expected, and when it is due to the proper officials. I can handle that. What starts to drive me batty is when requirements for the College and for the Department don't line up and NO ONE CAN EXPLAIN WHY OR HOW TO FIX IT.

Being a PhD student, I belong to a bunch of different people (to simplify things, I'm calling them people). I belong to the Graduate College, who have fairly generalized requirements and don't understand  a lick of what goes into scientific research but seem to like forms and paper. I belong to the College of Arts and Sciences, who start to understand science and somewhat know the requirements of the Grad College. Finally, I belong to the Department of Biological Sciences. I am not really sure what they understand, to be perfectly honest.

I don't pay to come to school here. I have an assistantship that covers my tuition and gives me a teaching stipend. It's awesome and I am very grateful for this. It was smooth sailing for the first year. I applied for in state residency to save the Department money on out of state fees. I do my registration on time. I get my forms in early. I have an awesome adviser who rocks at science and research and getting his students out on time. We sat down at the beginning of last fall, made a time line and check in to make sure we are there every so often. Well, not all the grad students are like me or have adviser who even know what the degree requirements are. Degree programs are being stretched to their limit, and the Department only has so much money to give. That means they have to cut and set limits.

Recently, the Department decided they are only going to pay for 6 credit hours per fall and spring semester per grad student and 1 hour in the summer, unless there are unique circumstances. Students can still get out on time (I can't really say this with a straight face because apparently this is a problem in our Department). HOWEVER, the Grad College stipulates full time graduate student enrollment is 8 credit hours during the fall and spring, 4 during the summer. Here come all the hoops.

I have spent more time on the phone and sending emails this summer than I care to spend. I am enrolled for 2 credit hours this summer. Two does not equal four. So I am not full time. This bumped my student discounts on insurance. One of my student loans from undergrad threatened to fall out of deferment. Isaac's and my health insurance was dropped since I am under the university policy and they can only cover FULL TIME STUDENTS. The State retirement fund (I technically work for the State of Ohio) takes 10% of your paycheck automatically if you aren't a full time student. That makes no sense at all to me, and my summer stipend was already lower than a minimum wage job at McDonalds. It was literally one thing after another.

This morning, I took care of what I hope to be the final issue for this year. When I filled out my financial aid forms in the early spring semester, I put that I was enrolled full time. This was before the Department changed what they would pay for. That means, I was awarded the maximum amount of federal aid allowable to a full time student. Until, I wasn't a full time student anymore. All of sudden my award disbursement was suspended and I had no idea why. I took care of everything as it was popping up. I need that money. Isaac needs that money. WE NEED THAT MONEY. I finally figured out this morning, after a length call to the financial office, that my award status does not meet my enrollment status. I had to change it to match, or my aid would be severely delayed, if not cancelled for the Fall semester.

This is not a hoop. This is a flaming hoop like the ones the circus wants animals to jump through. It's a pain in the rear, to put it delicately.

I have enough going on in my life without the hassle of dealing with these types of things that arise since other students can't get their act together to graduate on time. I understand extenuating circumstances. But when the average length of the programs is getting longer and longer because people fail to get their  requirements done on time and I am being stifled because of it? That I don't understand.

Fingers crossed there are no more issues. I have a dissertation to complete.

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