(This is part two a series of blogs I am writing about Grand Valley State University)
The differences between traditional and nontraditional students are basically age and I think responsibilities in life. Traditional students have little in the way of actual responsibilities. They think they have them but don’t. When we were 20 we all thought we were at the top of our game and the world but we weren’t. Non-traditional students, like myself have a plethora of responsibilities. Nontraditional students are classified as those 25 and older but some say 24 while others say 26. They don’t have all day to go to class, they have a specific and often small time frame with which they can work classes into usually. We don’t have all day to sit and do homework since we usually have jobs, careers, families and businesses. We need classes to be convenient and flexible for OUR needs NOT those of the professors let alone having to worry about some arbitrary attendance policy professors make up for those who are just out of high school.
Grand Valley State and other colleges solution is for us is to go part time and take even longer to graduate and spend MORE money doing it because god forbid GVSU actually provide a broader range of schedules (ill come back to this later). I say more money because by taking less than full time you lose some financial aid and some students have to pay part of their tuition out of their own pocket right away. It seems in the minds of GVSU by giving us less options it’s easier to achieve a degree and that’s backwards thinking. After 4 years GVSU is failing us older students it seems, sadly. I hate to say it because I like the college but it’s just not a college for working adults with busy lives, real life expectations and higher goals who can’t stop everything to focus solely on college for at least 4 years if not more.
They do offer a few undergrad programs that are designed for adults with busy schedules but they are very limited. You can see those here. As you can see the options are very limited.
If I keep up on the reading, study, do the homework, my required writing for class and participate when I am there (all of which I do) why it should matter if I miss X amount of classes. If I am not in class it’s not because I’m hung over and don’t want to get out of bed. The ironic thing is that there are a great many professors at GVSU who have kids so one would think they would get it and many are very understanding but many are not. I have gotten lucky and had a few that were understanding about my own hectic life. I am paying for these damn classes with loans that I will have to pay back NOT my mom and dad so it really should be up to me NOT the university or the professors to judge how many classes, if any, that I miss. I work, have class’s full-time and spend most of my free time doing homework. I spend so little time with my family when they are awake already. So if I decide to take a day or night off from class once in a while to spend some time with Stacey and my son I should be able to do that without the worry of failing a class or threats from professors.
Areas where Grand Valley State is failing or just lying to adult nontraditional students.
They offer so few online classes it’s not only sad it’s embarrassing considering GVSU’s competition. I’ve been told that Harvard University offers a wider range of online classes but I havent checked that. Unless of course you are going for a business degree or something in the medical field or maybe your masters. From doing a little poking around the undergrad degrees with online options are shockingly low especially in degrees where you would think it would be an obvious option. Here is a link for those degrees.
My major is writing with a creative focus. You would think, given the large amount of literature and writing classes involved in a BA/BS that a writing or English program would be perfect for a 100% online or even a hybrid curriculum. Grand Valley feels otherwise I guess since in the 4 years I’ve been there I have only managed to find 4 online classes. That’s 12 credits out of 100 so far. That’s sad. In fact for the next 3 semesters (thru winter 2016) there is only 1 class under the writing major that is available online and that is writing 305. That’s class I took in 2011 as an online class in the summer. So in 3 years GVSU hasn’t felt the need to add more. Check out this link and see how Writing compares with other classes with online classes available. As a student its not only annoying it’s frustrating.
When you are a freshmen, sophomore and sometimes even a junior and needing classes in those year levels (095-200; maybe 300) there are usually a plethora of choices for required classes and majors so it’s somewhat easy to find a class that fits any schedule. For something like Writing 150 which is a required class for all freshmen and writing majors at GVSU you have around 50 different course times and about 12 different professors to pick from (ZERO are offered online however as of winter 2015). When you are a junior, senior or 2nd year senior it’s harder though; much harder. It’s harder at least when you are non-traditional student with a life and responsibilities like I mentioned in the last post. I am sure it’s no problem for the general student population who can focus solely on school and social lives. I don’t even want to know what a non-traditional student in a grad program has to deal with although someday I will find that out…just not at GVSU.
When you’re an adult though and trying to schedule 300-400 level classes which fits in with your REAL life the options are very slim. When you’re trying to balance work schedules, babysitters and taking into consideration the work and maybe even the school schedule of your significant other the options are even slimmer.
Trying to do this 5 to 9 months ahead of time so you actually have a shot at getting into a required class for your major at a good time (or at all) is a monumental feat. For one of my classes one semester (a 400 level class) I had 2 options….TWO! One was at 5pm 2 days a week and another 3 hours 1 night a week. No, neither one was offered as an online or hybrid class; that would have just made too much sense.
For a traditional student this is easy since their lives are not complicated and relatively predictable so scheduling semesters ahead of time is pretty easy. But for non-traditional students like myself you apparently need to be psychic and know exactly what your life will be like the next fall or winter semester when you go to GVSU. PLUS you have to cross your fingers that you have a boss who will let you adjust your work schedule basically every semester because of the dumnassery that is GVSU’s course schedule. For many working adults that last feat is almost never an option. There is really no reason that one writing class (from my last post) that I had shouldn’t have been offered as an online class. Given the structure and involvement of the class it very well could have been and there was nothing done in class that made it necessary to be an “in person” class. The only reason it wasn’t is because the professors were not willing to run it that way. Or as I was told, “Students will not be as successful if it was an online class” which is bull…shit.
If a college algebra course can be offered as a Hybrid class at GVSU and offered as an online class at the local community college then why isn’t an advanced fiction writing class offered as an online class? I had an adviser once tell me that the reason GVSU doesn’t offer more online classes is because certain professor’s worry it will hurt GVSU’s reputation as a “premiere” 4 year university and hurt the quality of the education”. Basically they don’t want to be known an ONLINE college like university of Phoenix. GVSU is NOT a premiere 4 year university. Maybe someday but not now. She also said it’s because some professors think because “they had to do something a certain way when they were in college then students now should have to also”. The idea brought up in last line I will bring up again in my next post about Grand Valleys Writing department and some of the professors.
Because of scheduling issues such as this its takes working adults even longer and more money to finish their degree if they are going for a bachelors and don’t have a previous degree already. This is the way it seems, maybe not the way it’s meant to be but it feels this way to me: Grand Valley and its professors are trying to punish working adults who choose to go back to college later in life by not understanding or respecting our responsibilities and needs when it comes a complete college education. Because certain classes are only offered certain semesters I know other NTS’s who had to wait an entire year to graduate because they had to wait an entire year to take the ONE remaining class they needed to graduate.
This means Bachelor of Arts. This also means 3 semesters of a foreign language whereas a BS (Bachelor of Science) is 3 statistics classes. I have only experienced Russian (which I wish I would have stuck with) and Italian. The foreign language cognate is tricky little bitch at GVSU. The first level, level 101 of any foreign language at GVSU is only offered in the fall semester. The 2nd level only in the winter semester and the 3rd level only in the fall. So that’s 3 semesters; a year and a half for your foreign language requirement. You have to pass one to get into the next level. If you don’t pass….let’s say Italian 101 you have to wait an entire year to retake it in the fall which means you will be a year behind in the 2nd and 3rd level which means it WILL take you longer to graduate. Extending your time at GVSU by a year or longer and yes more money spent. This is the boat I am in now.
OR! Let’s say you pass level one of Japanese in the fall but all the courses in the 2nd level in the winter semester are full and you can’t get in. What happens then? I’ll tell you what happens. You wait a whole God Damn year until the next winter semester and cross your fingers you are able to get into a class and remember everything you learned a year before in level one.
Why first level of foreign languages are not offered every FALL and WINTER semester I have no idea. Why all the levels are not offered every semester I have no idea. That’s something that would again just make sense and be convenient for the…dare I say it? STUDENTS. For the NTS’s it’s even more frustrating.