Closed Out of Classes? Now You Have a Fallback Plan

Barry Lenson

what to do if you are closed out of a classGetting closed out of college classes can be more than an inconvenience for students. Here are two case studies about young women at elite universities – paying hefty tuition fees – who locked horns with getting shut out of courses . . .

Case Study One: The Customer is Always Wrong

  • Gretchen V., about to enter her final semester of undergraduate work, was applying to medical schools. She had taken tons of science and pre-med courses, but when she read the “fine print” in the application for her top medical school pick, she realized that she needed to have completed four semesters of social sciences or humanities courses as a prerequisite for admission. And she was one course short. Suddenly, she was scrambling to find an open spot in an acceptable course. Granted, Gretchen had waited until the last minute to realize her mistake, and she had missed the deadline for signing up for spring-semester courses at her university. She was able to get the rules bent and get into the course that she needed, but she had to get her parents to call her advisor to get that to happen. “We had to turn it into an international incident,” she says. Doesn’t it seem odd that a college that was charging more than $50,000 a year didn’t help her get into the course she needed without making her beg for it?

Case Study Two: Feeding Frenzy in the Ivy League

  • Emily W., a sophomore at an elite university, fired up her computer at the exact moment when her college had opened course enrollments for the following term. The problem was, so did all the other students at the school too. “It was, like always, a complete crap shoot,” she says, describing her efforts to get into the classes that she wanted. “My top choice seminar in my major closed out before I could shoulder my way in,” she says. And remember that like Gretchen, she was paying about $50,000 a year for her education.

It is pretty remarkable, don’t you think, that those expensive universities have the right to treat their customers that way? I can’t think of another business that could get away with it. If you went to a famous steak restaurant and the waiter said to you, “We are out of steak, you have to eat spaghetti for the price of a steak,” you would be pretty angry, right? If you went to a BMW dealer and the salesperson told you, “We’re out of new cars, you have to take a 1972 Chevy Caprice for the price of a new BMW,” you would flip out, right? Yet students and their families seem to accept the notion that universities can treat them that way. When it comes to education, people have been trained to pay more and expect less.

But here’s one solution. If you are shut out of a course that you need, you could be able to take it online – especially if it is a core curriculum kind of course like English Composition or College Algebra. But if we were in your shoes, we’d ask your regular college to pay you back for that online course, or at least subtract the cost from your tuition. If your college can’t supply what you need, you are owed a refund, right?

Well, you can at least ask.

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