Why Student Review Sites Don’t Always Tell The Whole Truth

Student reviews can sometimes leave out the "whole truth". (photo courtesy of Rodrigo Philipps)

Student reviews can sometimes leave out the “whole truth”. (photo courtesy of Rodrigo Philipps)

Many students enjoy their time enrolled in college: studying, learning new material, seeing their graduation date come closer and closer. The experience can be memorable and online reviews can be helpful to others seeking to further their education as well. Unfortunately, not all college experiences are met with such high marks. Some students struggle to adjust to the demands of college classes and others detest working with administrative personnel, but one must take into consideration the difference between a complaint and a lack of understanding of school policies.

 Below are the top 3 complaints found on college review sites that misunderstand school and Department of Education policies; consequently, students misinterpret schools as providing  “poor customer service”.

1. The academic advisors and faculty are not helpful.

Faculty and Academic Advisors are in place to teach and assist students, respectively. However, a common misconception is that online universities provide tutoring to students via advisors and professors; this is not true. While faculty should guide students through the coursework and instruct them to think outside the box, they are not personal one-on-one tutors who will call when you don’t submit an assignment or walk you through how to find an article in the library. Colleges expect students to be somewhat independent and capable of thinking and doing on their own to some degree.

2. Financial Aid will not release my money to me.

There are numerous regulations regarding federal student aid. Students oftentimes do not realize when aid is released from the government to the schools – did you know it is different for first-time students opposed to continuing students? – and what can and cannot be disbursed to students?

Sometimes, usually with scholarships and grants, money has to be used to tuition and cannot be released to the student. For example, an awarded Pell Grant can be disbursed to the student once the account is at a zero balance with the school because it is approved to cover living expenses. On the other hand, an institutional scholarship, or grant that specifically is available for tuition purposes only, may state it will cover the cost of attendance and therefore excess funds do not exist.

While financial aid can be an overwhelming process to fund college, it should not be the sole provider for a student’s cost of living. Many institutions, in an effort to prevent students from taking out more loans than they actually need, will only certify up to the cost of attendance. Because substantial debt post-graduation can be impossible to pay back (can be…not is) schools are doing everything in their power to prevent default or excessive loan payments.

3. I told [insert name/position here] I was going through a hard time and they refused to work with me; I was dropped for no reason!

Schools don’t drop students for “no reason” and, unfortunately, just because someone was notified does mean that can turn the other way when it comes to regulations from the government and/or accrediting agencies. Schools have to follow rules regarding attendance, a student’s rate of progress (are you successfully progressing through your degree program?) and satisfactory academic program (grades). If a review states a student was dropped “without warning” or “because no one helped them” it usually means he/she was not  regularly attending class, submitting assignments, or working to the best of their ability on assignments.

Because reviews are based on one person’s experience, remember to take negative postings with a grain of salt. While one student may have had a terrible experience with a university, another may have had an excellent time while enrolled in their program. In addition, many reviews argue policies rather than actual faults in customer service or quality of education. Remember, policies in education oftentimes are regulated through the Department of Education and/or the accrediting agency.

Ashley Benson is a distance education professional with five years of experience in the for-profit sector. She has worked coast-to-coast within the United States as an academic advisor, an adjunct teaching assistant and, most recently, a campus Registrar. Through formal education and industry experience, Ashley practices staying informed on the current events and changes within higher education and the students involved.

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