Smile Politely

Missing Drop Date an Expensive Mistake

I’m not sure when U of I’s drop date for classes is, but if you are a student and you’re thinking about dropping classes, or dropping out completely, heed this caveat: don’t drop after the drop date.

After I left U of I, I decided to go back to school to pursue a nursing degree. I made the huge mistake of going to a private school, which costs exorbitantly more than a two-year or a one-year, accelerated program. I made it through two semesters and then I entered the clinical phase.

Clinicals sucked. That is the only way I can describe it. I had to wait on tetchy physicians for patient charts for hours at a time, I had to document holistic approaches in the most redundant manner and throughout all of this, and I had to act like I cared. I did care, because I am an altruistic person, but I don’t like having to put up with pompous attitudes, nor do I like to do work, just to do work.

I eventually decided to drop out after one of the most horrific clinical cases I had ever seen. I was led to a room to take care of a diabetic octogenarian who had recently had hip surgery. She was nearly an invalid and I don’t think any medication in the world could have served as an anodyne for her. She couldn’t talk; all she could do was moan. When I first saw her, she looked like a gelatinous mass, withered by years of agony. Her eyes fluttered at me, begging me to help her, but I really couldn’t.

I prepared her for her bath. As we lifted her unctuous skin folds, a few cockroaches scurried out. I looked into her eyes and saw what she was trying to tell me. She didn’t want to live, but what were we taught to do? We were there to improve her condition, and then send her home to live in squalor, unable to keep cockroaches from burrowing in her skin.

As I stood over her, two thoughts crossed my mind. The first was that euthanasia should be legalized. The second thought was that I had to quit nursing school. I knew that I wanted to help people, but having just witnessed the most pathetic scene in all of my life, a scene that I couldn’t have ever even imagined, I couldn’t justify ameliorating this helpless lady just so that she could go back home to the same dilapidated state that ultimately brought her before me.

When I went to the business office that week, they told me that I had just missed the drop date by two days. I told them that I didn’t care and that there was no way for me to pursue my education with their institution. I asked them what the penalties were and they told me that not only would I be billed the standard tuition fees (no shocker there), but that since I missed the drop date by two days, not only did I owe the basic tuition, but I also had to pay back an extra $3,500 for the grant money, too. I asked them to explain this to me and all they did was use circumlocution, so that I never understood how two days time could cost me so much money (If I ever drop $3,500 in two days again, it’ll happen in Vegas and hopefully I’ll have some VD to remember it by).

Regardless, I didn’t care about the money then. I had to leave, so I did.

I told the college that even though I didn’t agree with them (this was me being naïve), I would still pay them back, just not the way they wanted me to. I told them that I would pay them back $25 a month until the entire bill was paid off. The reason why I did this is because the college wasn’t going to charge me interest. I wanted to be an ass back to them, because they weren’t kind to me at all, once I told them I wanted to leave.

I figured up some basic math. $25 times twelve months equals $300 a year. Since my bill as $8,000, then that would take me about twenty-seven years to pay off. However, I didn’t think about stamps. Twenty seven years of bills meant 324 envelopes if I sent a check in every month. I tried to adjust the stamps for inflation, so I figured that if the average stamp cost $0.70, then I would essentially pay $227 in stamp-interest.

Well, my plan didn’t work. Six years later, I got the typical “We’re preparing to turn you in to collections . . .” type of letter and then I knew that I had to speed things up. I called them and set up a payment plan, but it still benefits me more than them. Maybe this is wrong, but I don’t like judging myself too much, so I’m going to live with it.

I know that I am lucky, because most colleges or universities would have turned my bill over to a collections agency. I’ve only had one run-in with a collections agency before and it wasn’t pretty, even though it was a clerical mistake. It still took me three months to rectify the situation.

I just wanted to throw my experience out there to our student readers. It is very important to manage your loans efficiently. It is also important to enroll in classes and programs that you truly want to be a part of. If you don’t like the class or the major you’re in, get out before the drop date. Otherwise, what might have taken you thirteen years to pay off could turn into twenty-seven years, or 324 months of stamp-licking.

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