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Surprises
April 2, 2013 - 9:11pm

People who know me will have a hard time picturing this, but it’s true.

Seventeen years ago yesterday, I met a willowy brunette in a bar in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Neither of us had any business being there, but there we were.  I was a grad student.  She worked in a cubicle.

We bantered, we walked, her teeth chattered in the cold.  She saw me drive off in my powder blue 1989 Toyota Tercel, and wondered about a guy who would drive such a thing.

I called shortly after, and her answering machine ate the message.  I broke the rules and called again the day after that.  

Now our kids call her Mom.  Happy anniversary, honey.

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I’ll file this one under “learn something new every day.”  Did you know that when two colleges form a financial aid consortium, they have to do a separate agreement, manually, for every single student?

I ran headfirst into that one this week.  

A student can only receive federal financial aid at one college at a time.  So if a student who is matriculated at Hypothetical State College wants to take a class at Nearby Community College, either the student has to pay for the NCC class out of pocket, or HSC and NCC need to have a consortial arrangement.  That way, the student’s aid can run through HSC, and HSC can include the cost of the NCC course in the aid package.  

Coming from the academic side of the operation, I had assumed that consortia were sort of like articulation agreements.  Articulations are treaties between colleges in which they agree that, say, HSC will accept sixty credits from NCC towards a bachelor’s degree for any student who has a 2.0 GPA.  They’re ways of guaranteeing that transfer students get a predictable deal.  

The key difference is that an articulation agreement, once signed, can apply to hundreds or thousands of students.  But every single student needs a unique consortium arrangement.  When financial aid offices are scrambling already, the labor involved becomes prohibitive at any significant scale.

Note to the Federal Department of Education: if you want to encourage innovation, degree completion, and efficiency, you need to change this rule.  The bureaucratic overhead required is simply absurd.  

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Nanette Asimov has been posting some wonderful pieces on the City College of San Francisco and its accreditation issues.  This piece is particularly fascinating; it directly takes on the “what if?” scenario of CCSF actually losing its accreditation.

If I were a betting man, I’d say that it won’t; I just don’t think the accreditors are up for taking on an institution of that size.  But it’s fascinating to look at what would happen; it isn’t nearly as straightforward as one might expect.  Check it out.

 

 

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