The following was sent by a McHenry County College student:
To Whom It May Concern:
Go to school they said. Get a degree they said. Like any productive member of society I strived to get ahead in life. I pushed so hard that I bypassed high school and went straight to college.
When I was 15, I enrolled in McHenry County College.
I discovered a world of knowledge, I was finally free to learn about what I wanted from instructors who taught not for huge state salaries or glory but for the passion of lighting a spark in students and changing the world.
The message was clear study hard, strive for success and take the knowledge you receive at MCC and apply it to a higher degree at a 4 year school.
So I studied hard, I basked in the knowledge and guidance that I was given and I truly grew as a student and as a person. I gathered the 60 credits I needed to graduate and received an Associate of Science degree, I was 17 and realized that I had no idea what I wanted to choose as a degree path and decided to take some time to figure out which career I was passionate about.
Life happened and I got active in the I/T field and I started my own small business at 20. After 8 years of running a small business, I realized that no particular field held more passion for me than business itself.
I decided to return to school and work towards my BS in management.
My first choice was to return to my alma mater MCC and take any classes that I could in an environment that
I knew was positive and conducive to learning and self improvement.
I decided to take macroeconomics and I was lucky, the instructor, Peter Daley was an experienced business professional. He had worked in many fields of business and logistics and had real world knowledge that he was passionate about and his enthusiasm was infectious. I was excited, I found that I really had a zeal to continue where I had left off and I found myself integrating knowledge from class into my everyday actions as a consumer. As I mentioned I was lucky.
The next semester, I had my first exposure to “Connect” cards. Publishers don’t feel that they make enough money from textbook sales now that used books are exchanged freely or even rented on websites like chegg.com. Some students have even discovered that you can buy international versions of textbooks which are the same as the US edition but ¼ the price due to other countries refusing to pay inflated prices for texts. Publishers decided to hatch a plot to keep students tied to their distribution model. They would sell the same texts as always but now students would have to spend an extra $50 to $100 for a plastic card with a code on the back.
Much like a gift card there is a scratch off section on the back that once scratched makes the card unusable. The publishers needed an angle to get the schools on board so they introduced a new way to educate students. All the lectures are powerpoints prepared by the publisher that instructors can use in lieu of a lesson plan. All the homework and tests are accessed via the connect code through the publishers website.
All the instructor has to do now is stumble into class and flip through the powerpoint and direct the students to do their homework and tests online, the publisher does all the preparation and grades all the homework and tests for the cost of the connect card. Now the schools are firmly on board. Why have to supervise the staff and make sure the students are being taught when we can have the publisher do the work for us and all we have to do is charge each student another $50 to $100 each class?
Students believe it or not are intelligent. When all the homework and tests are online and completed at home all you have to do is submit each question to google and the answers are at your fingertips. That’s assuming that you don’t have someone else log in to your connect account and complete your work for you. I realize that would be unethical but can instructors really hold students to a higher standard when their work is completed by a third party also?
The new system was pretty upsetting and left a bad taste in my mouth but I had had instructors that had challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone in the past.
When I was getting my AS, I had an instructor that was new at MCC and had some radical idea. He felt that the best way to learn our political system was to get assigned a role in a simulation and be held accountable for getting laws passed or explaining why you failed. I wanted to read a book and write papers not actually interact with the system, but in the end I actually achieved a working knowledge of politics which no test would have instilled.
I knuckled down and decided to give it a semester and see how things went. That semester was rough.
I had an instructor who was obviously uncomfortable with the new system and technology. Each class would open with an hour break to work on the homework from the previous class that had been due before class started and was inaccessible.
Assuming the stars aligned and the current week’s homework unlocked I would just work it while the other students presumably checked their facebook walls. Then we would be treated to a 15 to 30 minute session of scribbling on the board and erasing when the examples were incorrect. Then we were told that we could access the powerpoint lecture slides ourselves and directed to work on our homework for the remaining hour and a half of class.
Ok, I felt that I was wasting my time in class but maybe the teacher was a luddite, MCC was still a great school about helping students right?
I decided to grit my teeth and go back to MCC for one last semester before gathering my credits to transfer to a college to complete my bachelors.
Which leads me to my reason for writing this.
In December 2012, I went to the bookstore and took pictures of the required text cards for each of my three classes and ordered the books and connect cards online. The spring term started January 14th and I had all the required materials in hand and read for my classes.
Then I went online and tried to use my access card for my Macroeconomics class, the website said I had ordered the incorrect card version and my card was not useable. I was frustrated but I assumed I must have made a mistake when ordering and resigned to having lost $60. I signed up for a trial account and completed my assignments.
The following evening was my first managerial accounting class. After the previous card issue I was determined to verify I had the right card and not get stuck wasting another card as this one cost $100 on top of the $120 used textbook required. I asked the student next to me to see her card and verified that the ISBN on both cards were the same, her card also had the ACC152 sticker the bookstore uses to ensure the cards are correct.
I opened my card and went to the website and tried to enter it. This card also came back as being the incorrect version and unusable. Almost every student in the room had been sold the wrong cards. After class I spoke to another student and she had been sold wrong card for our accounting class and macroeconomics as well. I was very upset and decided to verify my cards against the pictures I had taken in the bookstore and it turns out that I had ordered the correct cards that the bookstore specified.
I immediately opened a support ticket with the publisher on 1/16/13 to see if they could exchange my card, it has been almost four weeks at this point and I have submitted another request to support and have received no response.
I co tacted the website I had ordered from and asked if I could return my opened but unused cards. The website unfortunately cannot accept returns on open cards as per their policy which is perfectly understandable. At this point I have $160 in cards that are worthless based on the MCC bookstore’s erroneous information.
On 1/18/13 I went to the bookstore to see why they had only gotten the books correct for one of the three classes I was enrolled in. I spoke to an employee and was told that the incorrect information was the fault of the instructors and due to a law change they had to post information even if they knew it was incorrect.
I decided to investigate the issue further and found that the head of accounting Don Curfman was on campus.
I went to Don Curfman’s office and spoke to him about the issue and was informed that the accounting department had changed the cards the previous summer and the bookstore had ordered old cards even though they had been using the 2nd version card the previous fall.
He said the bookstore knew of the issue and it should have been resolved. He then went to the bookstore and after investigating found the bookstore still had the incorrect cards on the shelf as of 12:20 p.m. on 1/18/13 a full week after the semester had started. I wanted to get more information and make sure that the bookstore had some policy to make sure other students didn’t have to suffer financial hardships for the bookstores inability to accurately order the correct books. I sent an email to Todd Culp the director of the Economics department who was off campus but responded the same day and he said he would verify with the instructor that the texts submitted to the bookstore were correct.
I then spoke to the College President’s secretary, she stated she would forward my issue to the vice president who would get it resolved.
Later that day I received a call from the bookstore supervisor.
She curtly told me that the correct ISBN for my accounting book was 0077429494. I explained to her at this point I had that information but I would like to understand why they had only gotten 33% of my classes books requirements correct and how I could verify that myself and other students wouldn’t have the same issue in the future.
She informed me that the bookstore had numerous problems and had to eat the cost of approximately 180 cards for my accounting class alone. She went on to point the blame [to] everyone from
- the instructors
- the department heads
- the book sales representatives [to]
- the publishers
She made it clear that this is a widespread problem and made it seem commonplace.
I asked if there was anything they could do to address my losses due to their inability to correctly perform their duties as a college bookstore. She told me that they would be happy to exchange my cards for the correct ones but only if I had purchased them after 1/14/13, the first day of the semester. I found this pretty upsetting because the arbitrary day of 1/14/ 13 is meaningless when you consider that had I not gotten involved and Don Curfman not investigated my issue the bookstore would still have the wrong cards on the shelf 5 days after that day.
I resolved to accept the fact that the bookstore was not going to rectify their error but decided that if I was going to eat $160 personally I would like to know how the bookstore intended to address the issue going forward.
I was told that I should wait until after class starts to buy any of my materials and that I should only buy them directly from the bookstore. I was then told that they have a disclaimer on their website that says they are subject to make errors and that is apparently the entirety of their attempt at fixing the issue.
On a positive note, I did receiv ean email from my Macroeconomics instructor saying that the bookstore had finally acquired the correct cards for that class on 1/24/13 so roughly 2 weeks after class started and one week after I got involved students could finally get the materials for the two classes I raised issues about, unfortunately I can only guess how many other classes were incorrect and if those issues got resolved.
I realize that MCC is in a constant state of change and it’s value to the county’s residents is multifaceted.
I feel that somewhere in it’s mad rush to build glass edifices to vanity and tilt at
- the windmills of sports stadiums and
- fitness centers
the mission to be accountable as an educational institution has been lost.
Rather than strive to expand while maintaining the exceptional academic standards that MCC could rightfully be proud of, we have ended up with a degree mill where the students and instructors are merely warm bodies to keep the bills paid and line the book publishers pockets.
We no longer have an active part in the process, we pay the tuition and go to class that is little more than an excuse to justify buildings while all the supposed “learning” is farmed out.
The bookstore which has become the gatekeeper to this brave new world cannot manage to serve it’s core function of correctly selling the books required.
My attempts to this resolve the one issue highlight the lack of accountability and the sad state that the college has fallen to.
It is with much regret that I say that the current state of what passes for an education that MCC is granting degrees on devalues not just the degrees achieved by myself and all the alumni but also the hard work and dedication of all the faculty that have made mcc what it once was.
I feel that rather than sending out surveys to earmark funding into pet projects like fitness centers and asking whether students need an indoor walking track or a spa, the MCC leadership need to ask students and faculty how we can better the education that used to be MCC’s point of pride.
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The student adds, “The college VP did immediately contact me and suggest they are working on the issue.”