News | Administration

In the dark on financial aid, some GS students must drop out

At the end of May, Sierra Scott, GS, found herself in a predicament: She had to sign a new lease on her Columbia apartment, but she still wasn’t sure if she could afford to live there.

As a result, University Apartment Housing permitted her to continue her month-to-month lease but requested that she inform them of her plans at the end of June.

Though she submitted her financial aid documentation during the first week of April, by June 27 she had yet to receive her notification. When she approached Alice Gamret, director of residential leasing, she informed her that she had to move out by June 30.

Scott’s troubles had started in the fall of 2010, when the Student Financial Planning office lost her paperwork as a result of an office transition and did not process her Pell Grant disbursement. The School of General Studies' Office of Educational Financing, which took over all financial aid processing for GS students on Jan. 1, 2011, did not discover the mistake until February, so Scott did not receive her Federal Pell Grant money for the spring 2011 semester until the middle of July.

Because GS did not catch the mistake until February—well after the course registration deadline—Scott wound up being a part-time student enrolling in University Housing, an exception the school grants only once.

When she emailed Daniel Rodriguez, associate director of educational financing, on June 30, she received an email saying that he was out of office from June 20 to July 4. (That email was actually incorrect—he was out from June 30 to July 4.) She contacted the Office of Educational Financing, and the person who answered the phone was new and unable to help her.

Scott—who is now on a leave of absence due to financial duress—is one of many GS students whose financial planning for this academic year has been made more difficult as a result of the school’s delay in announcing financial aid packages and responding to students’ inquiries in a timely manner.

When she finally received her notification on Aug. 11, she discovered that her award was two and a half times the award she received for the previous academic year.

“It was so shocking,” she said. “If I could have banked on getting two and a half times more aid, you bet I would’ve stuck around.”

Notification delay
In March 2011, Skip Bailey, director of educational financing at GS, sent an email to students indicating that the school anticipated that responses to financial aid applications would be mailed out in mid-June. Any students who applied after the priority deadline of April 15 would have reduced awards or awards would not be available to them.

But the school started sending out notifications not in mid-June but on Aug. 8, even for those students who had submitted their documentation on time. By Aug. 12, almost all students had received their financial aid packages.

Roughly 20 students were not packaged by Aug. 12 due to late or missing materials or technical issues preventing their packaging, according to Dean of Enrollment Management Curtis Rodgers.

General Studies Student Council President Jacqueline Thong, GS, said Rodgers had told her the delay was a “one-time thing.”

“We don’t foresee the same issues in 2012-2013 in terms of the delay. We’re on target,” Rodgers said.

Last January, the University adopted a new system called PowerFAIDS, which helps schools and administrators award and track financial aid. Rodgers called it “unbelievably complicated.”

Now, it is “fully up and running and implemented, and a lot of issues have been ironed out and sorted out with the system,” he said.

A student at GS, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his financial aid package had not been resolved, applied for a scholarship appeal. Given that the last day to drop a class and receive a tuition refund had already passed, he was concerned that he would find himself locked into a semester that he could not afford.

“Lucky for me, my private loan situation had been resolved at the beginning of the semester in that I would be able to apply and get a loan,” he said. “However, the financial aid office was unaware of that so it would not have impacted their ability to provide me my appeal, and the appeal is still ongoing.”

Receiving notification of financial aid packages so late in the summer makes taking out loans far more difficult, Scott said.

“It felt like they just don’t ever consider, from the student’s point of view, what it’s like to take on huge loans and debt and how it might feel to them that they can’t make a decision without being fully informed of their awards,” she said.

Rodgers said that he was unaware of any students dropping out as a result of the delay.

Communication issues
But the struggles students face with financial aid extend beyond the notification delay. For some, the issue is simply a lack of communication.

When Grace Oliver discovered Columbia at a job fair hosted by her community college in California, she was certain that Columbia was the perfect school for her. One year later, the excitement of going to a prestigious school has lost its luster. Oliver has now been forced to drop out of GS so that she can work and pay for her education.

Oliver met with Bailey, who told her to consider attending a state school if she could not find a co-signer on a private loan. Oliver said she was “gob-smacked” by the idea that a financial director would make such a suggestion.

“I just poured my heart into writing an admissions essay to change my life to come to New York City,” she said. “I moved 3,000 miles and left behind a community college that I went to for free to come to this school, and you tell me to go to a fucking state school? You’ve got to be out of your damn mind.”

Oliver applied for a scholarship appeal, but Bailey told her that they are still waiting to make a decision. It was simply too late for her.

“I couldn’t get my classes this semester, and it is only a matter of time that I am going to be shoved out of housing,” she said.

If she had stayed in California, she would have had $10,000 to pay for her education: $5,000 she already saved from last year’s Federal Pell grant, and the other $5,000 that she got for this school year.

For Namiko Suzuki, GS, receiving her initial financial aid package on Aug. 12 was late enough, but she was pleasantly surprised to receive an email almost two months later telling her that she was the recipient of a named scholarship.

Since she had not received notification about the scholarship before, she assumed that it was going to be added to her financial aid package. But she was dismayed to discover that the amount was already included in her award.

She learned that “just getting a name for my scholarship doesn’t mean that I’m getting additional scholarship,” she said.

Budget increase
Despite students’ complaints about the office’s slow responses, the financial aid budget for GS students has been steadily increasing since 2006.

It saw a 17 percent increase from $11.5 million during the 2010-2011 academic year to $13.4 million during the 2011-2012 academic year, according to Rodgers. Since the 2006-2007 academic year, the budget has experienced 116 percent growth from $6.2 million.

During the 2008-2009 academic year, GS launched a program to increase aid awarded on the basis of need, an initiative that has already grown from $1.2 million in the 2010-2011 academic year to $2.25 million in the 2011-2012 academic year, an increase of 87 percent.

Still, some students say that they are not benefiting from it.

Wojtek Skrzypczak, GS, said that the increase in the financial aid budget has not translated into meaningful help for him. He received $8,200 in institutional aid for the 2010-2011 academic year. This year, he received $11,200.

“Given the rise in tuition and cost of credit, we haven’t really been awarded higher scholarships,” he said. “It looks higher on paper but unfortunately the bills that we get for school also look higher on paper.”

Though Skrzypczak said he knew what his financial aid package was going to look like, he said it was disappointing that the packages reached students “very late.”

“It was kind of beyond the point that most people would consider reasonable for financial planning for the subsequent year,” he said.

Ultimately, Rodgers said that students’ difficulties with financial aid extend beyond the timing of notifications.

“I think the far larger problem is not late notification,” he said. “It’s that GS financial aid is not yet resourced in the way that we would like it to be, and the priority for the school continues to be increasing our resources for financial aid so that we can better meet the need of the students enrolled.”

But regardless of what causes difficulties for students concerning financial aid, Oliver said that it cannot change her present situation.

“Although I feel personally grateful that I have this opportunity to enrich myself and become more of an adult, I still think that it’s tragic,” she said. “That it’s just wrong that any student, any student at a school like Columbia for any financial reason, would ever have to step down.”

madina.toure@columbiaspectator.com

This story has been updated to reflect a mistake in Rodriguez's email.

Correction: An earlier version of the story said that the School of General Studies had lost Sierra Scott's financial aid paperwork in the fall of 2010. The paperwork was actually lost by the Student Financial Planning office. Spectator regrets the error.

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Anonymous posted on

Why would you spend 50-60 thousand a year to finish your undergraduate degree? Columbia should not be responsible for supporting returning students in GS to take a few courses or finish their BA. This is something the student should figure out and finance. If you feel you would have saved a bundle to go to UC schools, you should have gone there. Columbia's tuition is no surprise to anyone.

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Anonymous posted on

There are many GS students who are not transfers.  Most start from square one, but have had a gap of some sort in their education.

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Anonymous posted on

I agree; Columbia should only be for the rich. Let's end financial aid for the many CC/SEAS moochers with lower or middle class EFCs who receive grants from the university. The whole upward mobility mantra of "anyone who got into Columbia should be able to go" is just ugly. The only time I want to hear about poor people is when I shoulder their burden in Community Impact for two hours on the weekend.

But seriously, as another anecdote, I had to turn down a free ride to a state school because their scholarship acceptance deadline was months passed by the time GS got back to me with paltry financial aid.

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Anonymous posted on

Brilliant humor, GS nationalist, thank you.

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Anonymous posted on

Obviously your "free ride" at a state school would have been less under any circumstances, so your little tirade was pointless.

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Anonymous posted on

Thank god I found someone sane in the comments. Fuck ability, GS should be a fundraising arm.

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Anonymous posted on

GS Nationalist, I feel your pain.  I turned down a full ride scholarship to another Ivy League school while waiting for my financial aid package from GS.  Imagine my surprise when I only received $8,000.  This figure was considerably less then what I was told to expect from the recruiter I met with just a few months prior.  I was only expecting to finance around $10,000 per year.  I do not regret my decision to come to Columbia, but I do wish that the school would have been a little more honest about the cost.

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Anonymous posted on

I just think it's funny that only CC students care about any distinction between the schools. Seriously, CC kids think they are better than SEAS, Barnard and GS. Nobody else, the other schools and professors included, cares!
I makes me think that CC kids have a prestige complex if they are so concerned with being "at the top." It would make sense, since they chose to attend one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. However, please get over yourself. You made it in, so stop being insecure about your status. It's really stupid and immature how CC students treat GS students.

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Anonymous posted on

Harvard and Brown's extension schools (their equivalent of GS) offer no financial aid. They function purely as schools to bring in tuition dollars.

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Anonymous posted on

I feel like this gets said (and is promptly ignored) whenever GS is in the spotlight, however, GS is not an extension school.  True, it was born out of the Columbia Extension, but it no longer functions as an extension school.  The Harvard Extension segregates its students, who don't take classes alongside their traditionally-aged peers.  The rigor of the degree pales in comparison to a traditional Harvard undergraduate's.  GS students take all of their classes alongside students from the three other undergraduate schools, and their major requirements are the same as those for CC students.

I can't figure this one out, but maybe you can give me a hand: 
Is the GS-hate motivated by classism?  Ageism?  A general dislike for people who are different?

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Anonymous posted on

I think the GS students suffer the same reputation as the Barnard students because some feel they "masquarade" as Columbia College students with all the same rights, resources, benefits, and privileges, without going through the same standards and rigors of high school, qualifications, SAT scores, etc of CC and SEAS students. To gain acceptance into CC and SEAS is significantly more difficult and undisputable, so to claim "equal" university degrees people have a problem with.  I think the GS students would cry foul too if a CUNY student told them their program was just as good and rigorous. Yes, GS students enjoy the same classes and benefits as CC students, but are able to gain entrance at a much lower level. Therein lies the problem.

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Anonymous posted on

GS does not release admissions statistics, so how would you know how they compare?  Also, consider the situation of  a very bright 17 year old high school senior.  Let's say he has a 4.0, 2300 SATs and great extracurriculars.  He makes the decision that he wants to serve his country, or work for a couple of years, or travel, etc.  Then he makes the decision that he wants to come to Columbia.  I've got some news for you anon: even if he wanted to enroll in CC (and thus avoid the unnecessary stigma), he is not eligible.

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Anonymous posted on

Yes, that is correct, Columbia College and SEAS only takes students directly from high school, where GS does not take students from high school. But, in reality, how many times does your example hold true? 

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Anonymous posted on

As opposed to the unusual qualities of other undergrad students? This can surely hold true for 300 new GSers per year, especially when there's no comparable competition. We have other fascinating people too though.

GS is a very competitive school with an acceptance rate of 23% (and higher than it should be due to the small nature of our candidate pool). We'd welcome a fair share of funding and campus resources in exchange for comparably rigorous standards to CC.

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Anonymous posted on

Speaking from experience, there are definitely a large number of GS students who excelled in high school but were unable to go directly to college for one reason or another.  There are other students who only began to do well upon returning to school as adults.  

Different strokes for different folks, right?  Why does it matter when someone began to excel academically as long as they are able to excel now?

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Anonymous posted on

GS only accepts about 300 students per term. It's incredibly competitive compared to CC.

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Anonymous posted on

You are joking, right? This is exactly why CC students have a problem with GS students stating not only are they comparable, but more "competitive" to CC. Columbia College had 35,000 applications for a little over 1000 spots, whereas GS has about 1100 applicants for 300 spots. Columbia College admits are the some of the brightest applicant pool in the nation, now according to latest statistics, only behind Harvard in GPA, SAT scores, and admit rates. I am not saying GS students are not smart, I am answering the question above that there is mistrust in students who are in the exact same school, taking the exact same courses, who did not have the same rigorous admissions standards as the CC and SEAS students. To say they are the same is completely ludicrous.

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Anonymous posted on

I agree that comparing CC/SEAS admissions to GS admissions is impractical and unfair.  The standards students from the two pools are held two are entirely different, and any attempt at comparison is completely unproductive.

All of that said, I think it's strange of you to say that you "mistrust" students who you admit "are in the exact same school, taking the exact same courses..."  I'll agree for the moment that many GS students did not have the same rigorous education prior to Columbia that many CC and SEAS students enjoyed.  However, we are the same in that we do the same work. Regardless of how competitive admissions to each of the undergraduate schools is, each undergrad does the same work to get his or her degree.  Columbia doesn't give out degrees based on how well you did in high school. 

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Anonymous posted on

People actually care about this?

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Anonymous posted on

But let's be real here, when people think of *Columbia*, they think of CC. If as many people knew about GS as they do about Columbia itself, our acceptance rate would be waaaaaaaaaaay smaller, because these days, it's not just more high schoolers that are packing off for college. More adults are going/returning as well, and I know tons of people that would love to be somewhere like here. Any one of my friends that I left behind in community college could have been excellent candidates for this school. I just hope that GS awareness does increase. Even though I'm getting shafted by F.A. it really is a very cool program.

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Anonymous posted on

Interesting, because many of the community college students that I left behind, some of whom applied to GS and got rejected, would clearly not have been good fits for Columbia, despite their obvious talent and skill.  It takes a special bird that nests hear by Alma Mater.  Why try and lessen GS achievements just because we didn't follow the "correct" path?  What would Mill say about such a triumph on custom over personal liberty?

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Anonymous posted on

People think of Columbia, they think of Columbia.  CC is just relevant to those privy to the system.  Sorry.  

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Anonymous posted on

Lol... GS is a "program"? Then CC is a neat program, as well. SEAS, though, is the coolest of all programs.

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Anonymous posted on

First off, I'd like to thank you for your polite, thoughtful reply.  It's encouraging to see that we are able to engage each other civilly.

That said, I have mixed feelings about your above comments.  I agree that CC and SEAS students are held to different standards going into their undergraduate studies than those that GS students are held to.  It's difficult to compare the admissions statistics of the three schools because the pools of applicants are so different. Given how small our applicant pool is, 23% (which is the admissions rate waved around online) is pretty competitive, but it's difficult to draw any direct comparison to the other two undergraduate schools.

I think it's important, though, to remember that once we've all been admitted, our educational experiences are identical.  It takes the same amount of intelligence and dedication for a GS student to get an 'A' as it takes a CC or SEAS student.  Above, you agree that GS students 'enjoy the same classes and benefits as CC students,' but go on to say that we 'gain entrance at a much lower level.'  Although I'd tend to disagree with that as an oversimplification, I'll let that go in favor of asking a question:

So what?

Regardless of how we got here, we are, in fact, here together, in the same proverbial boat.  You can say that I and my fellow GS students were held to less rigorous standards, and that's fine.  However, we are held to the same standards upon enrollment, and that, I believe, is the point of the matter.  We don't believe our degrees are equal to yours because we entered with similar qualifications (some of us did, some of us did not).  Rather, we believe that our degrees our equal to yours because we do the same work that you do to get them.

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Anonymous posted on

 ... except for the part about "rights, resources, benefits and privileges." Privileges to attend the same classes and earn the same degrees? Yes. Rights to housing? No. Rights to financial aid? No (also see: the above story.) Resources that come along with things like housing - like an RA, a community, student life? No, not so much, not so much. The right to meet with an advisor? Spotty - because lots of GS students have to work full-time and their advisors, while they may make an effort to have some late office hours, don't always have compatible schedules.

Further, GS students whose families can't support them miss the additional financial aid opportunities available to those CC and SEAS students who don't have family support.

Overall, students in GS tend to accomplish the same things as CC and SEAS students, with *fewer* rights and resources. The one real benefit GS has that CC and SEAS don't, is the ability to study part-time - so the GS student can keep a roof over their heads at some full-time or part-time job.

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Anonymous posted on

LOL except the reason that they would cry foul is likely because CUNY is A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SCHOOL.  When we take the same classes as you and kick butt, it is because we are awesome, sorry about your concept of "lower level."  Try working full-time, paying rent on your apartment, and going to school at night when everyone asks you "why even bother?"  AND THEN YOU GET IN TO COLUMBIA.  Trust, buddy, it ain't easy.  Hell yes we are proud.  Step off.  

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Anonymous posted on

This makes me mad.

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Anonymous posted on

Wow! Really? Have some unity people! We are all Columbians regardless of the path we took. 

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Anonymous posted on

I am a GS student (first-year). I am proud to be a Columbian; however, my pride is being stepped on by the CC/SEAS students that think of me as beneath them. We all start at zero here. It is a shame to see such discrimination based on background. 

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Anonymous posted on

Skip Bailey needs to go.  He told me the same thing.  Who gives that kind of advice?

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Anonymous posted on

 Well, what is he supposed to say?

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Anonymous posted on

He's supposed to offer support rather than crush the hopes and dreams of a wide eyed student who just got accepted to a wonderful institution.  He's supposed to at least act like he gives a damn and wants to see you succeed.  The whole in your face "there's no money to loan you so if you can't pay for it on your own, you should go to another school...but don't forget that I'm here to help you" spiel is bullshit.  Now that I know he actually says this to other students, I'm shocked he still has a job.  

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Anonymous posted on

I see so you would rather the financial aid director lie to you and say sure you can afford this like fin aid people at University of Phoenix or other con-lleges? 

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GS_Senior posted on

There's nothing new here.  Sure, whatever, the office takes forever, it wouldn't matter if they actually had funds to dispense. The real issue is that there's no real support.  GS students take on appalling debt and graduate with a second class designation.  Many drop out.  Sorry guys, I'm sick of it.  I'm sorry I came here and had I the opportunity to do it over, I wouldn't do it again in a million years.  Biggest fucking mistake I have ever made in my entire life.  

I really don't care how Columbia chooses to shuffles it's papers, who's fiefdom rules over who's fiefdom... What school appears under what faculty, who reports to who, what reports to what.  Keeping that straight is the job of the university's overcompensated fearless absentician, Lee Bollinger.  What I care about is the end result, and the end result is that Columbia has a total endowment that is greater than the GDP of many countries, yet people frequently walk away from GS with over $100k of debt for _undergraduate_ degrees. 

Undergraduate degrees, the modern day equivalents of high school diplomas.

It's not right.  I think the unversity is treading on morally hazardous ground and I will never, ever support this place in any way, be it lipservice, finance or long term involvement.  GS is exploitation masquerading as opportunity, abusing a twisted national narrative regarding selectivity and higher education.  I have seen it up close and personal, and I will never, ever forget it.   
    

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Anonymous posted on

HA.  Second class designation?  It sounds like you're the one that's second class, not the degree.  I agree about the debt, bu you're spouting a lot of dogma that is based on a lot of personal irresponsibility.  You should be so lucky as to go here with us, with a nasty attitude like that.  No wonder you didn't benefit.  

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GS_Senior posted on

No, I would have been lucky to go elsewhere with real peers, as opposed to snobby kids from privileged backgrounds taking their cue from the organizational structure that somehow those of us in GS are a "privileged other" that have been benevolently chosen to be allowed to come along for the ride, designated badges forever pinned to our foreheads, of course...

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Anonymous posted on

I absolutely disagree with this assessment - the notion that one's  academic status within the university is bifurcated between CC/SEAS and GS.  I'm a senior in GS, and I have a 3.86 GPA.  I feel no "Second class designation."  I know that I have competed, and collaborated with students from ALL of Columbia's undergraduate schools, and I will be proud of my (magna cum laude or, hopefully, summa cum laude) BA from this university. 

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Anonymous posted on

Make friends.  Most people on campus aren't jerks. They're just different, a little privileged, and whole lot of nerdy.   

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Anonymous posted on

Let's just put it out there.  GS is totally an exploitative business!  It's no coincidence that after the new GI bill came out the increase in the vet population skyrocketed.  Guaranteed money maybe?  Every single piece of promotional material put out there is marketed to vets.

GS tries to claim that it started as a school for vets returning from WWII and therefore returning to its roots but I don't buy into the hype.  Every video Curtis Rodgers puts out is all about vets, vets, and more vets.  It's almost sickening.

If they focused more on obtaining resources to better improve the financial aid system, then I would believe that they truly care about the students.  Everyone raves about Dean Awn and frankly, I'm embarrassed that he is the Dean.  What a joke.

The level of discontent within the school is alarming but when GS students have to deal with all this and the pompous attitudes of CC/Seas students that have this attitude like the ones who commented on this article, it's no wonder.

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Anonymous posted on

I'm a GS alum. I graduated with a reasonable amount of debt - especially when considering the burden of many of my classmates. I got everything I ever wanted out of my time at Columbia and am really happy with the career choices/opportunities I've made and had.

That said, objectively speaking, I just don't think GS works. Let a few non-trads into CC/SEAS and Barnard every year. Incorporate the post-bacc program into the School of Contuing Ed. and move on.

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Anonymous posted on

I agree.  I love Columbia and I love my fellow GS students, but the "separate but equal" system just doesn't work.  Columbia can look to state university systems for guidance .  State schools aren't perfect by any means, but they do handle a diverse student body -- some traditional and full-time, some older and part-time -- and seem to do a decent job by all of them.  

They could make the Ivy League accessible to talented students regardless of age or class, as it should be.

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Anonymous posted on

I am so intensely grateful for my Columbia experience, however, the main difficulty that GS students face is represented in these comments. The value of a student is not measured by SAT scores or high school preparation, it is measured by performance during their time at a university and what they accomplish in the world. GS has amongst its students published authors, financiers, former ballet dancers, veterans, and numerous other professionals that have already proven themselves enormously capable out in the world. GS also has low income students that had no opportunities to navigate the complex bureaucracies that would have prepared them to go to a university directly from high school. I appreciate the dedication of CC students, however, many of them take for granted that they come from backgrounds that prepare them for an education like this. I am not generalizing to the entire population, but, there are students at Columbia that think class mobility is just a footnote in a paper and not a revolutionary benefit of the modern world. Thankfully, this attitude is not shared by the myriad of professors who mentor and appreciate different perspectives in their classrooms. CC student, imagine that you had to contend with all of the same work that you do now; the papers, the problem sets, and then add an administration that can't tell you whether or not you can pay for school, AND a significant portion of the population thinks you don't deserve to be working yourself to death to get a degree. I think a little tolerance from both sides of this argument is in order. 

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Anonymous posted on

BUT YOU FORGOT HOW WE ARE BETTER THAN GS STUDENTS BECAUSE EW THEY ARE OLD!  No seriously, you win the most-thoughtful-and-reasonable comment award.  I hardly believe a mind like yours could be faceless.  

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Anonymous posted on

Any elite school you are going to graduate with debt. Do you think your debt would be less if you went to Harvard, Yale or Princeton? Columbia ia an amazing diverse university in the world's most diverse city. If you do not have a great time here, it is purely your fault for not taking advantage of the opportunities here and making connections. You come to Columbia for the great education, opportunities, New York City, and the impressive name that the University carries both in the US and abroad. People who are down on Columbia need to enroll in other schools to see the difference in faculty, students, opportunities, etc. You take from Columbia exactly what you put into it.

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Anonymous posted on

Part of what you are paying for is the name Columbia on your resume for the rest of your life. It is like saying you went to Harvard or Oxford, or other universities that are known the world over. There are very few schools in the US that are known in other countries. When someone says you went to Columbia, they will not ask your GPA, because the name stands for itself. On a name recognition score, Harvard, Yale, and Columbia are the three most recognized and footnoted US university names in the world.

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Anonymous posted on

Plus the education here is, uh, kind of amazing.  Snottiness aside, you can never take all that I have learned on this campus away.   The financial aid situation is undoubtedly unfair, but man, was it worth it.  

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voracious posted on

This is stupid.

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hungryundergrad posted on

Why doesn't GS reveal the number that would most effectively tell their story of success (or lack of it) - the percentage of GSers admitted who actually go on to receive a degree?

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Anonymous posted on

Responded to this pithy post below

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Anonymous posted on

What the flipping f**k?  Is this even a point of discussion amongst you class bigots now?  I always thought the admission standards were your particular weapon of choice, but this?  Let me ask you- do you think this would even be newsworthy if GS students were admitted, only to drop out in large numbers before their due graduation time?  NO, clearly this financial aid issue is causing GS students to drop out, WHICH IS HIGHLY UNUSUAL, given that we pay much more and work very hard for our equitable degrees.  Or, are you so ignorant, like a CC student I recently met, that you think we have to go somewhere else for our degree?  This precious person thought that GS was some sort of "continuation school."  In short, your snide comment is unappreciated, and your information dubious at best. 

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Anonymous posted on

There have been some fascinating comments from fellow GSers (and maybe some CC folk?) already that the larger points have been well-made. All I can add that in any estimation of this old (very old--check out the Princeton Review's forum section on GS for a continuing debate going back to 2005!) "CC vs. GS" debate, one must keep in mind that once GS students are here, we have to do the exact same work as CC but with far fewer resources, and much less support than what is offered to CC. Add to that the fact that our financial aid situation is shadier than the lawn in front of Lewisohn on a perfect day. But you'll never hear us complain about the fact that we have to share classrooms with those who think we don't deserve to be there despite all our hard work, and the life choices we make in order to be in those classrooms where others judge us simply for not following their route into Columbia. Whatever other inequalities and challenges we may have to deal with, you'll never hear us complain about sharing a classroom with a CC student. It can be quite painful being on the receiving end of this judgement.

We rarely complain. We persevere, just like we always have.

And privilege is a dangerous thing to take for granted.

Like U2 said, we're one but we're not the same. Please excuse the corniness of the sentiment, but I think it's very relevant for this article.

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Anonymous posted on

I am a proud GS Alumn and Columbia has given me the best i could ask for. I have heard a lot about this class issue or age issue. I recall being ask millions of time about "the master program I was in". That being said, to compare GS and other schools on the basis of Admission criteria is unfair from the simple starting ground that the the process is different. As to my GS students, I could never have met more amazing people who have done so many great things prior to joining Columbia and during the course of their time at Columbia.  The financial aid at GS is certainly messy, I myself had to work 2 jobs in order to compensate for the tuition fees. As a result, I missed out on a lot of opportunities that the School has to offer. But I knew going in that I would have to work my a*** off particularly because I wasn't a US resident. Also, I almost refused the offer because I was realistic that I couldn't afford to go here financially until I was told that I could go part-time. As far as rigor is concerned, I always believe that once the playing field is leveled, all of us can excel regardless of the walks of life. So there are tradeoffs I am sure in being a GS, CC or SEAS student. Frankly, in my case I really appreciated the stories that described the different paths people took to come to Columbia as opposed to the usual "high school --> college" line we know about. 
Furthermore, this "divide" that is often talked about I believe is emphasized by the system in place because as far as I experienced, I worked on projects with students from all other schools: CC, SEAS, Barnard etc. So this problem should be addressed starting at the top i.e. Lee Bollinger.
To my GS people One Love

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Anonymous posted on

There is a fundamental disconnect at GS between the admissions process and the financial aid situation. We submit abbreviated life stories with our applications outlining how we plan to continue to transform our lives in the Columbia process.

I am a first generation college student who transferred in, and I come from a generational, adverse socio-economic situation. I came to Columbia on my own dollar, quit my blue collar job and relocated to Morningside to become a dedicated student. I could have not predicted the cold shoulder treatment I would come to experience on a regular basis from the GS Office of Educational Financing. 

My first semester I was approved without a cosigner for a private loan, but denied the following semester as my credit rating decreased from my lack of income. I was told to "get a job at a fast food restaurant" by a GS financial aid representative to make up the -$5,500 for my projected cost of living. I turned to my parents and we applied for loan after loan which all came back denied, and after one semester I was already $20,000 in debt. 

Luckily I was hired at two jobs and was able to register for classes, and now in fourth semester at Columbia I can not help but feel like the lack of financial aid at GS is working against the students, especially those that live in poverty; I qualify for food stamps and went the first three weeks of the Fall '11 semester schlepping couch to couch. 

Working 30 hours a week (one job is at Columbia), living pay check to pay check, skipping meals, while taking a full time class load was not how I pictured my GS experience to be. I have met many amazing people from all school CC, SEAS, and GS alike, however I did not come to Columbia to live in poverty, I came here to contribute to a vibrant community of some of the brightest students in the world. Needless to say, between work and school assignments, I find that my time is non-existent for the extracurricular activities that make college richer.

Attending GS is a transformative experience, but for those of us that drop out due to helpless circumstances, we re-enter the real world without a degree and drowning in debt. This is a shame because we are the only sub-set of students in the entire "Ivy-League" that is not financially accounted for. 

I was admitted to GS for overcoming adverse situations and achieving high marks at my previous college, but my "life story" has since been forgotten, and Columbia is now my new opressor.       
 

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Anonymous posted on

I just think it's funny that only CC students care about any distinction between the schools. Seriously, CC kids think they are better than SEAS, Barnard and GS. Nobody else, the other schools and professors included, cares!
I makes me think that CC kids have a prestige complex if they are so concerned with being "at the top." It would make sense, since they chose to attend one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. However, please get over yourself. You made it in, so stop being insecure about your status. It's really stupid and immature how CC students treat GS students.

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