Cos (cos) wrote,

Tales in Bureaucracy [1993-10-31]

[ I originally wrote this on October 31, 1993, during my first semester of grad school at Brandeis. This is somewhat edited, but still very close to the original version. ]

Hello everyone, I'm a gradcreature now :-) This is my ninth semester at Brandeis University, and for the first time ever, I did not get a financial hold on my registration this semester! How, you may ask, did I achieve this impossible (at Brandeis) feat? Well, I don't fully understand, but I shall endeavor to tell you...

First, let's get something clear. You may have assumed, since I said I had no financial holds this time, that means my financial arrangements went smoothly. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is Brandeis we're talking about. In fact, things were more complicated this semester than they ever have been. Where I got lucky was, this time Brandeis managed to fuck with its own mind(s) more than with mine.

The story begins, sort of, sometime during my senior year, when I was still happily clearing a new financial hold each semester. Sometime early in the spring, I told the department administrator of Computer Science that I wanted to apply for the fifth year MA program. She asked me to submit a short letter declaring my intention, which I did, and the CoSci faculty voted to accept me.

Months passed. I never received any official acceptance or registration packet, even though I asked about such a thing on occasion. Finally, in May, the department discovered that I needed to fill out an official application and submit it to the graduate school. So, I got my application, and started filling it out. One of the things it required was a transcript... from Brandeis. Yes, they said, I did have to go to the transcript office, and make a request for an official copy of my transcript to be mailed to Brandeis University, and pay the normal fee. I guess this is as good as interdepartment communication at Brandeis will ever get.

Anyway, I went to the transcript office, where I discovered that I was not allowed to send out any transcripts, because, guess what, I was on financial hold. The school year was over, and I still owed Brandeis money. Great.

The next step was a trip to the Financial Aid office, to discover what all this money I owe was. One thing that puzzled them was that according to their records, I owed about half as much as my bill said I did. "Hmmm...", I thought, "what does the Bursar's office have to say about this?" It seems they had received one of my loan checks, but hadn't entered it into their records. How it got into Financial Aid's records, when it's the Bursar's office that gets the checks, I have no idea. There must be some high level espionage between these two rival agencies, because we all know they try their best not to communicate through normal channels.

Part of the money I owed was another scholarship, which wasn't Brandeis' fault. It was late due to a problem earlier in the year, but I had documentation proving it was on its way, so I got them to clear that part of it.

And then there was the third portion - my meal plan points from that year, plus a bunch of late payment fees that had accrued over the semester for the "late" loan and for the points I had not yet been billed for. I decided this small amount was something I could easily afford to pay. I had an on campus job, and once the school year ended I went up to 25 hours a week, so in several weeks I'd have the money I needed. Or so I thought...

... until I noticed that I wasn't getting any paychecks. It turns out that as far as Financial Aid was concerned, I had graduated. No longer a student, so, no student work-study job. What about the fact that I was still going to be a student for another year? Well, I got a letter from CoSci saying they had accepted me for the fifth year, but that wasn't good enough. They wanted an official acceptance letter from the Graduate School.

CoSci sent a letter to the grad school office asking them to accept me, but again, that wasn't good enough. The grad school needed me to submit a complete application. I handed in all the parts I did have, but the official transcript was still missing. Remember, the transcript office couldn't mail that out while I still owed money to Brandeis. Which I couldn't pay, because I wasn't getting any paychecks.

If I'd had to go through Brandeis to fix all of this, I might still be sorting it out now, but I was saved by two outside job offers. With three part time jobs, one of which was actually willing to pay me, I paid Brandeis off around midsummer, had a transcript sent out, and applied. I was "accepted" to Brandeis one week before the start of the fall semester. And now that I was officially accepted, I was finally allowed to apply for financial aid, something one usually does at the beginning of the calendar year.

As a matter of fact, I still don't have my financial aid, and probably won't for another month or two. How did I pay for the first semester? Well, I didn't. I got accepted so late, I didn't preregister for classes, so I wasn't registered for school until I went through the regular registration at the start of the semester.

Now, in case you don't know, a financial hold at Brandeis cancels your registrations for the semester, and if you don't clear it up by the end of the registration period and re-add all your classes, you have to leave school. By the time I registered, there were only a few days left before the deadline. In order to put a hold on me for this semester, the Registrar would have had to let the Bursar know that I had registered, and the Bursar would have had to generate a bill for me, and realize I hadn't paid, all in that short time. Nothing at Brandeis happens quite that fast, especially when it involves one department communicating with another.

As a matter of fact, it's two thirds into the fall semester, and they still haven't sent me a bill. Maybe they'll get around to it by the time spring semester rolls around, but by then I'll have my financial aid, right?
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