Staff Editorial: Unanswered Questions

Posted on 29 January 2014 by admin

If faculty and staff cannot answer questions, who can we turn to?

1 FRONTBY: THE MONTAGE EDITORIAL STAFF

We get it. Financial aid is a complicated process. We get it. Attendance is important. But if after two weeks of researching how the new attendance tracker influences financial-aid students, and all we get is the run-around, unanswered emails and ignored voice mails, it leads us to believe that our so-called “experts” on campus do not get it.

Last semester St. Louis Community College instituted a new attendance tracking system to be in compliance with the Federal Regulation for Financial Aid. Our previous attendance system did not account for students who stopped attending class after they enrolled. The tracker records all students’ attendance, but those with financial aid are the focus because if students with financial aid stop attending classes, they might have to eventually pay the college back.

Sounds simple, right? Not so much.

The Montage sent out reporters to the financial aid office, admissions and academic affairs to see how students were affected by this new tracking system and how much it affected financial aid. The problem? Reporters were sent in circles when asking what seemed like miniscule questions. A reporter would ask to talk to source A, source A would say to talk to source B, source B would say to talk to source A, and so on. Some sources would not even respond for days, after multiple phone calls and emails.

The real question is not all about the attendance; it is about how the attendance system, or user error or glitches in the system can affect a student’s financial aid. Can a student lose financial aid if an instructor makes an error when inputting attendance? Can a hybrid or online student be dropped from classes if he or she forgets to post an assignment? We wanted these questions cleared up, but every source had a different answer. Where are the real experts and where is the professionalism we deserve?

If a determined reporter cannot get answers, how is a student who could be on the verge of getting dropped from classes get answers? Why should a student, someone who just wants to better his or her life, be sent on a wild goose chase while his or her academic future is hanging by a thread? What a great way to get those retention numbers up.

We are transitioning to an online world, yes. But should the face-to-face assistance suffer because faculty and staff assume all students know how to navigate the STLCC website to find the necessary information?

unansweredquestion editorialA simple Google search revealed more details than any of the “experts” on campus. An attendance guideline, made for the new system, was found via luck. Where was this when we were asking questions? Is this a handout, or did we stumble upon something not meant for our eyes?

The guide found via a six-word Google search contradicts almost every statement made by our salary-earning “professionals.” A written guide carries a lot more weight than the person whose job it is to know his or her department.

Many of the interviews were filled with “I don’t know for sure … ” and “I believe it is supposed to … ” shortly followed by “You should talk to … ” This is where the run-around comes into play. Students should not spend their days following voice mail leads and email chains; they should be focusing on their studies, in order to create a brighter future. They should not be asked to “take a number,” they should be asked what size graduation gown they want.

We have waited a semester, in fact six months, since the attendance tracker was put into place, and if STLCC still cannot figure its own stuff out, how are the students, who are supposed to be the real focus, going to put their trust and money in this institution?

Gone are the days we got to know our instructors better than the login page of Blackboard. Gone are the in-class progress reports that were taken over by computer-generated grades. We are humans, not numbers. Put an end to this scavenger hunt and face the music. These issues cannot be put-off forever. A mess has been made, and someone has to clean it up.

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