Mercy College: The Year That Was – The Chronology (Learn From My Experience)
This marks the 365-day mark to the day that I was accepted into Mercy College and was preparing for my first day of classes at the Manhattan Campus. 2010 was a pretty tumultuous year; full of ups and downs, left turns when right turns probably needed to be made, a relationship that showed promise, only to end with an inexplicable (still, to this day) THUD. Up until the September 5, 2010 mark, I had four jobs (including two different temporary staffing assignments in the 1Q), able to reach a settlement with the state and finally moved back Uptown. However, the move was preceded by finding out last minute that I did not get accepted into New York University’s SCPS program for the Fall 2010 semester. That news was preceded by two stints in the New York City Men’s Shelter and succeeded by the aforementioned, unexplained break-up and entering the city’s Public Assistance program (welfare, food stamps, etc.)
I know several people who are homeless, and have been for years, dealing with health issues and much worse than my situation by far. I am not a Woe is Me/Have Pity on Me type of guy. I like to share my struggles and triumphs, because people can learn from the processes and a lesson in perseverance. They can also glean a few things with regards to how to handle similar adversities should they ever find themselves in entrenched therein.
Despite all of these things that preceded my time at Mercy, I went into the program with my head up, energized and ready to go. Because of the MATCH Program (the job-readiness program/humiliation-fest/complete and utter waste of time that makes the city appear to be doing something about the job situation in NYC) required us to dress business professional every day and be prepared to yield an interview for jobs . I had two interviews in three months down there, and the only thing that got me out of there was a friend of a friend reaching out to a friend of a friend to offer me a job — which turned into the stint that I had at Yahoo! A pleasurable experience, albeit filled with a lot of the esoteric melanin issues that plague this city.
So given everything, I was well-dressed and felt relatively optimistic about completing this Masters Degree program. No one in the program would know anything about what I was going through until the Fall semester was nearly ending and the nonsense that I had to endure from the administration of this school could no longer be covered up — and, as you can read from the introductory paragraph, only COMPOUNDED matters further, causing me to develop more ulcers.
Our program is different. It is a cohort program, and the classes are taken consecutively (that is, one at a time, month-to-month), as opposed to concurrently (the typical college format, particularly for undergraduate students). Personally, I had no qualms about this, because you never really felt too overwhelmed by having so much information being hurled at you at one time. There also wasn’t the necessity to work with such alacrity that your quality of work suffered. This definitely aided my matriculation and helped it become a cumulatively successful one (3.8 Cumulative GPA overall upon completion).
I will say this, and I will always go to bat for the school in THIS manner:
The program is very efficient, the faculty is largely invested in your academic success while they are serving as your instructor and BEYOND completion of the program at Mercy. Almost all of my professors maintain an open door to me, and have gone to bat for me regarding securing employment (because you know I am huge about networking and NOT SHY about asking for help in finding jobs, I’ve asked each and every one of my professors in this regard), and several of them wrote recommendations for me to continue my academic pursuits beyond Mercy.
The structure of the program is beneficial (although one aspect of it really caused problems for me from the financial aid standpoint — more on that in a minute), as the classes are designed to build upon the previous. They are truly links one to the other. As for the final thesis, instead of being given a general directive and having to construct a template on one’s own, the program director issued a very assuring template, and the classes, which required a 20+ page case study monthly — provided you with the actual contents for the final thesis. As of today, I am developing the Table of Contents, Pagination and the Preface (15-20 pages — to be completed by this Wednesday evening) and I’ve already done the actual body of the thesis. Being required to do it all from scratch in 12 months probably would have been too much to undertake, considering I began working in real estate (again) back in April and never did stop applying for other jobs the entire time.
The first three months of the program, I spent dealing with the MATCH program, which was based in Chelsea pause. I was hired at Yahoo on November 8, 2010, and, after a two-plus month wait, FINALLY received my refund for the semester two days later. Mind you, there was no income since July 2010, no assistance from any other source, just strictly Survival Mode in every regard, which is never healthy for long periods of time. I had been behind on a multitude of bills for months (and in a couple of instances, YEARS — as I was able to receive a complete forgiveness/cancellation of debt on three of my old credit accounts dating to 2006), so I had to attempt to catch up on those, contribute back rent, buy a new computer, printer and update my wardrobe, which had largely been staid since early 2008. And those who know me when I was well-off, KNOW I’ve always been fresh and my gear was fly. Into my 30s, there’s less emphasis on this, regardless of tax bracket, but I needed more clothes, plain and simple.
The fact that the attendance would not be completed for each of our classes (as the program is staggered and the classes are not taken concurrently) until the end of the semester, the Financial Aid office claimed that they could not technically “CTC” (Cut the Check, in Rasheed Wallace vernacular) until that point. The problem with this stance is the lack of consistency on the part of the school’s administration. Now, knowing me, you know that I went to the absolute top in order to work out a resolution. The check came a month earlier than the Student Services office originally claimed.
Now, knowing this, I tried to get the jump start on the Spring 2011 semester by filing all the requisite paperwork as soon as the grades for the Fall 2010 semester were completed and submitted by the professors. 3.89 GPA, “blah blah blah, okay, but my money better be right,” was my thinking.
(Hawk Harrelson Voice) “STAY FAIRRRRRRRRRRRR… it won’t!”
“It” being the Student Services office, of course.
The aforementioned lack of consistency? The entire semester goes by and only threats to expose the tactics to the local news outlets and paper media, did they “expedite” my refund, which was cut in half, despite my erstwhile request to the contrary. I received the checque the VERY. NEXT. DAY.
I had hoped to avoid all of this during the Summer. YEAH FAT CHANCE LIKE BART COLON AND CC SABATHIA, RIGHT?
This was the worst out of all of the semesters.
Lie after lie after lie, stonewalled all semester, no responses to emails from administration and generic responses during phone calls. Had our program chair not gone to bat for us, we would STILL be waiting another week or so before they even credited our accounts with our aid — while they continued to bill those members of the cohort who had negative balances and had to borrow EXTRA money, as they raised the tuition during the summer. Now, as someone who has gone to 6 schools and had financial aid issues at each of them, I’ve become highly keen about the policies and procedures regarding the disbursement of financial aid, as well as when tuition increases are to go into effect.
THAT IS THE BEGINNING OF THE FALL SEMESTER FOLLOWING THE AGREED-UPON TUITION INCREASE, NOT THE SUMMER, WHICH IS TECHNICALLY STILL PART OF THE 2010-2011 ACADEMIC YEAR.
So not only did they raise our tuition, but they caused a number of us to borrow more money than we originally intended or even had at our disposal. A few came out of pocket to cover the difference. As someone who hasn’t had income since being let go without explanation by Yahoo! in March, this was NOT a luxury for me.
Now, because our chair went to bat, had the process sped up, they finally decided to credit our accounts on August 25, 2011, and claimed the checks were cut. I called the following Tuesday (Monday, August 29, the college was closed campus-wide, due to Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene), no response. My classmate went all the way to Dobbs Ferry — a $20+ MetroNorth trip from Penn Station and back, they leave the office early, despite stating that they would be there until the office was to close (7 PM). So she makes the trip for nothing, wasting time and money. The next day, I call and email them three times apiece. I get an erroneously explained email reply first thing in the morning — as many of you know, I wake up every morning at 7-8 AM after only sleeping for 3-4 hours, then fall back to sleep after answering all top-of-the-morning emails, etc. I wake up 3 hours later and get a completely different response. I call them, and they say my check is at the Bursar’s Window at the Dobbs Ferry (Main Campus). Like I”m really going all the way up there, spending money that I do not have, when the check SHOULD come to me the next day, as the one in May did.
They claimed they inserted the check in the mail on Wednesday, expedited.
Thursday comes, no check. Mind you, my original plans were to go down south that evening and come back early Thursday so that I could join the cohort in participating in the remaining final presentations, although I had already done my own last week.
I didn’t flip out, because I figured, “Hey, maybe it didn’t go out with the last call mail, so I’ll get it Friday.”
Friday comes, no check, and now I’m getting tight. My plans are being altered and the Hertz that I always go to is not open after 12 noon on Saturday and CLOSED on Sundays. Along with that, Labor Day is a holiday, so there would be no mail delivery, nor banks open, AND Hertz was closed today as well.
So not only was my getaway shot, I’ve got a ton of things to pay for and the check still hasn’t come. Dobbs Ferry is 15 miles away from my home, a check that was supposedly EXPEDITED when mailed on Wednesday does not come Thursday, Friday NOR Saturday. I won’t get it today, because there is no mail.
If it is not here tomorrow, I’m seriously considering revisiting my letter draft from April 2011 and notifying the papers and the news outlets about how they’ve royally screwed a number of us over. Somehow, despite it all, my GPA didn’t suffer, but that doesn’t negate the fact that this summer, which officially ends today, was a complete bust.
Couldn’t move into my own apartment.
Only TWO nights out with my friends.
Probably the worst summer on record. I am going to keep my head up and I’m not discouraged despite everything, but I would warn anyone going to graduate school to be on top of their financial aid as much as possible and do not be afraid to go to the highest level of administration (and beyond), when necessary. It only helps in the end, especially when seeking to avoid the unnecessary headaches of matriculation. Most graduate students have lives outside of school, whether it is 1-2 jobs, a family, business, or seeking employment. No one has hours on end to play phone and email tag in this manner.
Again, this check was supposed to be EXPEDITED to me, and I am literally going to have to wait a week to receive it.
LET THEM BE BILLING ME AND I’D GET THREE STATEMENTS, OVERNIGHT, IN THE SAME WEEK.
Oh wait, Mercy has done that to me, also.