Welcome to America with a suspended degree


January 13th 2014, Monday

It was first time to come to campus after the year-end. I met a friend and her research colleague and had lunch together. She was in the same cohort during the first semester and also an international student from China. We were struggling with terrible classes and exams every week, but it’s almost one-year before and now we can just laugh on it.

Yes, it’s over. I’ve done all the program last month, and should receive MPH degree soon. But, here’s America, things don’t go smoothly. The reason why I came to campus today was, to talk with Dean of Students on a issue of my registration and tuition status which prevents my degree certificate. Last month on 19th, while I’m working on finals, suddenly the Office of Student Affairs emailed me “You owe school $16,754 in tuition, and cannot get a degree until you pay” “What!? I took all the course necessary to graduate and paid tuition each semester as billed!” After emails and phone calls now I figured out what happened on me. Columbia MPH Health Policy Management Department has choices of 16-month and 2-year programs, but most of us take 16-month one as default. But I was mistakenly registered as 2-year program as default, and neither I and my department faculties knew that, cos the office of Student Affairs never told or warned that. Tuition is based on flat rate, not per credit base for our school, and 2-year and 16-month programs have different rate per semester. So, accumulated difference of tuition per semester is now billed at one time, at the end of the year. OK, now I understand the official correct tuition for my 16-month program was higher than I paid, and agree I need to pay the remaining for graduation. But who expects $16,754 is billed at one time? If I was correctly placed on the 16-month program and told the correct tuition per semester, I could have taken actions to prepare money earlier.

The office closed from the week of Christmas. I checked all the previous document and email related to registration and tuition, and confirmed I had no fault. Then, today I met with the Dean of Students. They admitted their fault and gave me apology, but told they can nothing to do that happened. Because of segmented departments, Office of Student Affairs cannot compensate anything or discount anymore. They confirmed me to write any documentation to prove my academic qualification if necessary anytime, but an “official” MPH degree will be never issued unless I pay extra. I gave up cos it’s waste of time and needs further stress and energy if I sue them. Hopefully I can prepare money within a year by working hard.

年末急に降ってきたトラブル。プログラムの登録ミスで、僕に請求されていた学費の額が間違えており、正しく登録されていれば支払うべき学費に$16,000ほど足りない、支払うまで学位は出せないという通知が突然学生課の方から来た。僕は入学を一年延期したのだけど、その合格・延期・入学の間に学部のプログラムが変わり、そのとばっちりで登録ミスがあったのだけど、見落とされていたようだ。こちらにミスはなく、請求された額を遅滞なく払っており、過去のメールからもその違いを認識する余地はなかった。正規の額を払う分には文句ないが、いくらなんでも突然年末に言い渡され(謝罪もなく)、あと2ヶ月で用意しろと言われても無理がある。そりゃおかしいでしょ、なんでそんなことが起こったんですかと、学部・学生課の担当者に聞いてもお互い「分からない、あっちに聞け」となすりつけ合うばかり。結局今日、Dean of Studentsと話すことになった。結論から言うと、誤ってはくれたけど、支払いと学位の件は、担当部署が違うからどうにもならないと。ちゃんと学業を収めてMPHに値する能力がある旨を説明する書類は、必要となったらいつでも発行してくれるとのことだが、正式なMPH学位は支払いが終わるまでペンディング。Late feeは取られないし、まぁ4月からの勤め先も理解あるところなので、学位なんぞの紙切れがなくても人生に支障ないのだけど、それにしても納得がいかない。お金はまぁ、1年働けば用意できる、と思う。しかし今回被った迷惑に対する慰謝料とか、減免措置とかは無し。日本でお金を稼ぐから、支払う際もアメリカの口座への振替手数料かかるのだけど、そういうのも負担してくれるわけでもなし。訴訟とか面倒だから、これで我慢するしかないけど。なんだかなぁ。NY暮らしが長い友人には、Welcome to Americaって言われた(笑)


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