Stuck with a semester bill and a hold on my loan and financial aid
August 8, 2013 2:41 PM   Subscribe

I have a situation where there was a class this Spring semester that I attended and participated in, in which I received a WN grade in. Due to this WN grade, I am unable to receive financial aid, register for Fall classes, and the loans that I received from my PELL grant are in limbo.

This was an Introduction to Geology class at Brooklyn College.

I was absent two times due to sickness and certain medical concerns and about a month and a half into the college semester, I received an email that I had gotten a WN from the instructor due to supposedly not attending class. I did attend class and had all of the proper materials in class.

I talked to the professor and after having a lot of the class stand up for me as I made it public to him that I did attend class and the rest of the class could verify this, the professor told me that I could get a form from registrar that he would have to sign. I went to the registrar and they told me that the professor had this form. Afterwards I went to the professor again and he told me that the department has the form, the department told me that the professor had the form to remove the WN. Being thrown around, I realized that this professor simply just wanted me out of his class. It was already getting close to the time when the final was going to occur and I stopped going to class near the end. I realized that this WN would make any grade that I'd get on the final useless as a WN is a WN.

My biggest issue with all this is that this WN made me incur financial liability by making me go below the necessary amount of credits for full time study, making me have a semester bill for approximately $1,300 and blocking my financial aid loan, which is making it impossible for me to register for the fall semester.

If I end up having to get an F in this class, I would be more willing to do so as this would not block my federal loan and would make me not be financially liable to the school.

I've emailed the professor and he tells me that he doesn't want to meet and that there's nothing he can do. So far I'm dealing with academic advisement in the college and the professor just doesn't want to budge.

I'm unsure of what to do and I worry for my college education.
Is there anything I can do since the college is being uncooperative and the professor is being a liar?
posted by antgly to Education (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Escalate. Talk to the department chair (not the front office of the department, but the professor who is the head of the department), then talk to a dean. Any sort of documentation you have is good. I don't know what a "WN" grade is (withdrawn? I've always seen that as a "W"), but since you stopped going to the class near the final and didn't take the final it sounds like you did withdraw, so be very sure about the definition of that per your school. But yeah, escalate.
posted by brainmouse at 2:45 PM on August 8, 2013

Response by poster: I did not withdraw. I was already withdrawn about a month and a half into the course and while still coming to class, tried to get the grade reversed without any success until near the end I realized my efforts were useless.
posted by antgly at 2:46 PM on August 8, 2013

Perhaps you could start by contacting the Student Assistance and Referrals office, which is supposed to be able to direct you to various places. You may want to pursue a Student Complaint about Faculty Conduct.
posted by jacalata at 2:48 PM on August 8, 2013

WN is withdrawing without filing for a withdrawal, right? I went to Brooklyn College and had to get rid of a few of those myself. It's a giant pain in the ass if the professor isn't willing to sign the forms, because the department really can't do anything without the professor signing off on it.

The problem is that, based on the way I remember things working, you actually "deserve" the WN. As in, you stopped going to class and didn't take the final. Which means you have to go through the system to clear it. Which means you need the professor to sign off.

Don't bother going through financial aid or academic advisement on this. Financial aid will tell you to get back in touch with them when the WN is taken off, and academic advisement might help, but will probably tell you what you need to do and not actually do anything (unless you're particularly close w/ your advisor or are part of the Honors college or something.)

Go to the Geology dept (or whatever, it's been a while) and make some noise. Find out the professors' office hours. Get a new form, and hand it to him, personally, and ask him to sign it. Go see if the head of the department will meet with you; you're not a Geology major, so it's not like you'll ever have to deal with them again, unless they changed the core curriculum requirements.

TL;DR - You have to do all the legwork on this, and you have to be a huge pain in the ass. It's the only way, and that's coming from personal experience.
posted by griphus at 2:55 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is part of the Committee on Course and Standing appeal process right? Go to the Course and Standing office, fill out the paperwork to be on file with them and make an appointment with one of their advisors.
posted by griphus at 2:57 PM on August 8, 2013

griphus, I checked--a WN is given if you never start the class at all. Like you are a no-show on Day 1.

I'll need to go home and check my transcript -- I graduated with a single Wsomething I couldn't remove -- but they might use it for other things? I know there's a number of different WX codes.

Either way, angtly, go see what Course and Standing has to say. Do it ASAP because they only see people by appointment.
posted by griphus at 2:59 PM on August 8, 2013

In that case, bring anything (to the Geo dept. and Course and Standing both) you have that may prove you actually showed up to class, ever. Do you have anything graded by the professor? A copy of the syllabus? Lab reports?
posted by griphus at 3:03 PM on August 8, 2013

Response by poster: We didn't have lab reports. It was just things that we would fill out in the book that would get graded at the end of the semester. I don't think he ever gave a physical syllabus.
posted by antgly at 3:07 PM on August 8, 2013

I think you've gotten some good advice, the gist of which seems to be that based on your narrative you may have technically "deserved" the grade currently on your transcript—in other words, at this point you're not asking for something to be corrected, you're asking for a favor.

That's an important point to be clear on, and if it's true then it may obviate your narrative altogether. If you're just asking, "Would you please be willing to cut me a break and amend this grade," then maybe you don't need to go into the whole story. But if you do tell the tale, it's worth being prepared for somebody to ask about your timeline. You were notified about the problem a month-and-a-half into the semester, and then your story skips ahead to, "I decided to stop trying because the final was approaching." What were you doing in the meantime? (I don't mean that critically, just that you should be prepared to answer.)

Good luck. I understand it can be worrying, but lots of us have gone through some type of college misstep and ended up successful, even going on to high-level graduate work. You're not screwed. It's probably fixable.
posted by cribcage at 4:22 PM on August 8, 2013

If you go into the department with "guns blazing" along with a sense of entitlement (the professor is a liar--and I did everything I was supposed to do--none of this is my fault), I can almost guarantee that this will not end well for you.

This is a really important point; when I said "be a pain in the ass" I mean you need to be really proactive about getting an audience with the right people, which can be very difficult, especially with professors who teach core classes. Absolutely do not accuse anyone of anything, and be nothing less than polite.
posted by griphus at 4:59 PM on August 8, 2013

I don't think anyone has shown that the OP can deserve the WN grade he currently has, unless they are suggesting he lied in the post. For those who can't click the link provided by liketitanic, here is the description of grades, WN is bolded:

W Withdrew -
WA Administrative Withdrawal
(non-punitive grade assigned to students who had registered for classes at the beginning of the term but did not provide proof of immunization by compliance date.)
WF Withdrew Failing 0.00
WN Never Attended 0.00
WU Withdrew Unofficially (Student attended at least one class session) 0.00

It is true that it looks like he unofficially withdrew before the final. However, according to the Brooklyn College info on withdrawing, a student who officially withdraws more than 60% of the way through a semester will not be required to pay back loans. Unfortunately, it's less clear what happens when you unofficially withdraw, but it doesn't look like that would incur a tuition bill the way a WN has.

antgly, you should investigate what your situation would be if you got the grade changed to WU, unofficially withdrew. If that would allow you to enrol, you can focus on specifically getting it changed to that. Perhaps you could find other students from the class who would be willing to say you were in class?
posted by jacalata at 5:10 PM on August 8, 2013

Actually, that sounds like it will work, because he said originally
"If I end up having to get an F in this class, I would be more willing to do so as this would not block my federal loan and would make me not be financially liable to the school."
posted by jacalata at 6:06 PM on August 8, 2013

Seeing if you can retroactively withdraw officially may mitigate some of this...

Another (riskier but possibly simpler) method would be to get the WN converted to a F/WU (which you should've gotten in the first place, it seems like) and then have the F/WU stricken from your record by Course and Standing by presenting them with proof that it was a medical reason. That's what I did; it took a while, though.

Again, that's really risky and definitely Advanced Bureaucracy. But it does work. Or it did five years ago.

Finally, both TAP and PELL and the BC financial aid dept. are surprisingly good at tuition refunds if you get all the paperwork together. Like everything else, though, they take their time. If you can get the cash together (in a non-usurious manner) to register part-time, it would be a better idea than missing a semester because of these issues.
posted by griphus at 6:45 PM on August 8, 2013

In the future, also, when A says B has it and B says A has it, the solution is to force A and B to talk to each other. Like, show one an email from the other, call the student office on your mobile and hand it to the professor, whatever.
posted by Ashlyth at 11:03 PM on August 8, 2013

I work in an academic department at a university.

It sounds to me at this point you need to head straight to the Dean of Students office with all the graded work you completed. Then you ask in which instances is a WN grade applicable. In your case, since you have graded work, for some of the class, should you instead have received a grade? Provide the emails the professor sent to you about the department having the form and the department saying he had the form (and for crying out loud, every document should be available to any staff online from some password protectd server if they're worried about it being publicly's unconscionable that everyone is passing the buck here) and that you want to resolve this matter.

Keep in mind "resolve" does not mean in your favor necessarily. It means settled fairly and appropriately.

What bothers me about this situation is no one is working to get you any clear answers. As a department coordinator, if I heard your story, I'd make it my mission to get you the CORRECT information for you to decide how you would like to proceed. I am dismayed that the department assistant for this department hasn't done something similar for you.
posted by zizzle at 8:30 AM on August 9, 2013

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