I'm pretty unhappy today. I've made the difficult choice to take a leave of absence from Seminary this coming academic year. I'd rather not be taking the year off. I'd rather be pushing my education forward, but after several conversations with the deans at the Seminary and my advisor, this is the best option for now. Everyone at both the Seminary and my place of employment (which is also a college) has been very kind and supportive but unfortunately, what we are each able to provide for each another does not match up right now.
The situation:When I applied to the school, it was with the understanding that I would be able to continue my full-time job, which provides tuition remission, while pursuing the degree. However, the Masters of Divinity track has a large canon of required core-classes to obtain the degree. The problem is that these classes are only offered during the 9-5 workday. My job provides tuition remission with the agreement that all classes be taken outside of the office hours of 9-5 (which is a fair policy, I do agree). The school is trying to change their scheduling to better accommodate working students, but this will not be happening within the next academic year. This past year, the majority of classes I was able to take were electives. If I continue this pattern, I will have spent two years in a program on nearly all electives and very few core classes. This makes me very nervous.
Several people have suggested solutions out of support. Believe me, the folks at Seminary and I have discussed each and every one of these sorts of solutions and they simply do not apply. I'm posting several below as I'll be traveling a lot this summer and probably answering the same questions. It's easier on me to simply post them here and direct people to the blog. :)
Can you change your work schedule? Perhaps make up the hours later?
No, I can't. My job requirements entail me being a point person in the office between the hours of 9 and 5.
Can you take vacation time? To do the classes one day a week or something?
No. I'm the Executive Assistant to a Dean. Being out of the office one day a week will not work as I need to be present as much as possible during the academic year.
Can't you take the courses at another school and transfer them to the school?
No. The Seminary has a strict policy that its core classes must be taken at the institution. Being in Higher Ed, I understand where they are coming from. Unfortunately, it makes my student-life much harder! :)
What about independent study? Or on-line courses?
Neither apply to these courses.
How many courses are you talking about? Is this really a big deal?
Roughly 6 courses--18 credits. Plus a field study component that I will have to work through, somehow! Yes. It's an issue.
What about going to school full time? Student loans? Scholarships?
Doing that track would put me at about 40,000 dollars in debt by graduation. I am not willing to take on debt in that amount for something that is not a mortgage. As for scholarships, they would have to be enormous and those are hard to come by. Costs of living in New York City plus heavy tuition pretty much equal poverty for the rest of your life if you go that route. I think it goes without saying that a Divinity degree would help my work as a Priestess--but I won't be walking into a paid clergy-role. :) Plus, I like my job and I'm treated well here. I will not be leaving it to go pursue full-time school.
Well....isn't there something they can work out for you?
Again, I've been in hours of conversations and the Seminary has investigated every option they currently have for my situation. The only real way this can work is if the core classes are offered in the evenings which is something they say they are working on--but it's not going to be available this coming year.
Will they be able to offer the classes the following year?
It's uncertain. I absolutely hope so, but again--I do not want to go through the stress and costs of another year of school without knowing if I will be able to finish my degree.
Have you thought about other programs?
I will be researching other options, but nothing is certain, yet.
Gee, that sucks.
Yes, it does.
Are you upset about it?
Yes, I am.
So, now what?
Not sure. Going to teach these workshops this summer, work on some writing projects, keep in conversations with the Seminary and also peek at other programs. It bothers me a lot to delay my education, but that's just how life rolls sometimes.
Seminary has been wonderful so far--both academically and through this situation. My job has also been very understanding and supportive as well. But they each can offer only what they can offer and being on both sides of Higher Ed, I understand the limitations. But without a guarantee that I can continue and finish, I'm not willing to compromise myself energetically and financially. It's really annoying--but sometimes you have to take a time out and wait for the right solution to present itself.
Meanwhile, I'll do better at keeping this blog up to date. :)