Blocked from enrolling: New school students struggle to remove suspensions from their accounts

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Financial, academic and medical blockages prevented some students from enrolling on time and, in one case, without accommodation.

When Sebastián Guerrero prepared to enroll in his fall semester classes in April, he expected to be scouting for classes, looking for classes that would fit with his degree.

He didn’t expect the university to stop him from enrolling.

Guerrero got caught up in an email exchange with student health services and the financial aid office as he tried to resolve the issue.

“Sometimes I write to them with lots of questions and they only answer one,” said Guerrero, a freshman at Parsons School of Design. The free press of the new school. “Or they just copy and paste the post with a link and I have to find it all on my own.”

Guerrero has a medical suspension on his New School account as he has yet to receive his second Meningococcal vaccine. As a result, he remains unable to enroll in courses, such as ESL+ courses for first-year non-native English speakers.

“Everyone is already registered for the courses and I have to wait a month for [get] this vaccine in order to choose my schedule,” he said. “I’m a little worried right now.”

Everyone is already registered for the courses and I have to wait a month for [get] this vaccine to choose my schedule.

— Sebastián Guerrero, freshman at Parsons School of Design

Guerrero, who is from Peru, must wait until the end of the spring semester to return home and receive the vaccine because it is cheaper in Peru than in the United States. He said he didn’t know he needed the vaccine to enroll in classes.

“Nobody ever asked me for this vaccine,” he said. “But if that’s what I need to do to avoid more problems, I’ll try to do it as soon as possible.”

The new school places holds on the accounts of students who fail to meet certain requirements — such as having submitted documentation of all required vaccinations — until they meet those requirements, effectively blocking student enrollment. If students are unable to enroll in the necessary courses they need to complete their major, they might not be able to graduate on time.

Lorenley Baez, associate provost for academic advising and career development, defined a suspension as any impending obstacle that prevents a student from enrolling in classes. The new school imposes enrollment blocks on student accounts for financial, academic or medical reasons.

“Students can be blocked for a number of things, from vaccinations to outstanding financial aid balances to academic issues,” Baez said. “Academic issues range from academic dishonesty to plagiarism to an outstanding enrollment issue.”

To lift a hold, the student must contact the office corresponding to his specific hold. In practice, some students reported discovering blockages on their accounts just a few days before registration and were unable to resolve the issue by the time the registration portal opened. Part of the delay is caused by university staff not being reachable for students, according to interviews with several students.

Students can be subject to a hold for a number of things, from vaccinations to unpaid financial aid balances to academic issues.

— Lorenley Baez, Associate Provost for Academic Counseling and Career Development at The New School

Guerrero isn’t the only student to report communication difficulties from the offices that place the detentions.

Luna Cofino, a second-year journalism + design student at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, was surprised to find she had a medical expectation five days before registration opened for the spring 2022 semester.

“I had been in school for an entire semester and was already attending class,” she said. “That’s why I had no idea that I would have a health problem [hold].”

Cofino struggled to figure out what the hold was or how to remove it.

“I haven’t been able to talk to a real person for five days straight,” she said. “I was calling during school hours all day…I couldn’t speak to my counselor – they’re so busy.”

In March, the Free press reported that the average student success advisor workload nearly doubled, from 173 students per advisor in spring 2021 to 345 in fall 2021. The new school’s office of student success said that it generally aimed to assign 250 students to each adviser.

Cofino was able to speak with a college staff member and resolve his block on the morning of his enrollment date. She successfully enrolled in her first choice courses despite the delay.

I couldn’t talk to a real person for five days in a row.

— Luna Cofino, second-year journalism + design student at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts

According to Shondrika Merritt, acting associate provost for student success, the registrar and the financial aid office constantly email students with holds about their account status, even if they don’t respond.

“It’s not a one-off communication,” she told the Free press on Zoom. “Our goal is not to lose any students.

The New School Holds system has also impacted the housing security of some students.

In February, freshman Max Freeburg was not only blocked from enrolling in his classes, but was also kicked out of his dorm due to administrative blocks on his account, according to an Instagram post from Freeburg that has since been removed.

A Change.org Petition was posted that month on behalf of Freeburg by Holland de Klerk, another New School student and close friend. The petition called for support for the homeless in Freeburg and changes to the university’s housing policy. More than 1,100 people have signed the petition since its launch, which is not much less than Lang’s approximately 1,500 students.

“University policy requires that all students be enrolled in classes in a given semester in order to live in residence halls,” Baez said.

According to Merritt, the registrar and financial aid office are communicating with students via email to resolve their outstanding blocks. If they cannot be fulfilled, the university will adopt a support plan to help the student, she said.

“What we’re trying to do is create a culture of care,” Baez said.

What we’re trying to do is create a culture of care.

— Lorenley Baez, Associate Provost for Academic Counseling and Career Development at The New School

One of the biggest challenges for students is organizing their finances before enrollment. Jade Rentaria, a first-year BA/BFA student at Parsons and Lang, said she was blocked from enrolling in classes twice. Last fall, the university placed a financial hold on her account after she fell behind in paying tuition by a month, as per her plan.

Rentaria, who is a first-generation college student, struggled to resolve her financial situation in time for enrollment. She applied for financial aid and was encouraged by financial aid officers to take out a loan to bolster her application, she said.

“[The Financial Aid Office] says I have to exhaust all possible resources,” she said. “They tried to say explicitly that I had to take out a loan. They also didn’t want to pressure me, but I definitely felt pressured, like I was backed into the only corner.

Rentaria was hesitant to take out a loan due to her family’s precarious financial situation, so she looked for other options.

“I had to find the money,” she said. “I was able to make money, find money anyhow. It was a whole different situation trying to figure out which office to contact for the hold, because there are different holds. »

Once she had the funds, she was able to resolve the block via video chat with a staff member from the financial aid office.

“It’s a link they give you for a video chat and you need proof [of funds],” she said. “If you go to them with nothing, you won’t get anything in return.”

They[theFinancialAidOfficetriedtoexplicitlysayIneedtotakealoanoutTheyalsodidn’twanttopressuremebutIdefinitelyfeltpressuredlikeIwasbackedintotheonlycorner[lebureaud’aidefinancièreontessayédedireexplicitementquejedevaiscontracterunprêtIlsnevoulaientpasnonplusmemettrelapressionmaisjemesentaisdéfinitivementsouspressioncommesij’étaisreculédansleseulvirage[theFinancialAidOfficetriedtoexplicitlysayIneedtotakealoanoutTheyalsodidn’twanttopressuremebutIdefinitelyfeltpressuredlikeIwasbackedintotheonlycorner

— Jade Rentaria, freshman BA/BFA student at Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts

Rentaria was eventually able to resolve the blockage in a timely manner once she met the requirements of the financial aid office, she said.

Some students even had trouble getting to the financial aid office. A fourth-year Lang student who asked to remain anonymous because she is employed by the university said she had difficulty contacting the respective offices needed to resolve an impending block on her account.

She said it took the department about a week to respond to her request for a loan increase.

“And then once they increased my loan, I had to accept it and it took a few more days,” she said. “And by then the classes I wanted were gone.”

She also thinks the reason the financial aid office is taking so long to respond to students is due to a lack of motivation.

“I just don’t think they want to respond to everyone,” she said. “To be honest, I just think there’s such an influx of people asking about their financial situation.”

Suspensions can be a contentious topic for New School administrators. Natalie Gross, director of the office of civic engagement and social justice at Lang, said she recognizes why the outlets exist, but questions their merit.

“When you work with a company, you are expected to have a bill, to pay your bill, and to pay it on time,” she said in defense of the restraint system. “I also think there could be other conversations to think about the current needs of our student body. How to adjust these deductions and also how to alert students earlier? »

Enrollment for Fall 2022 classes is expected to close in late May and reopen in August.

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