I’m a big fan of the community college system and have said so previously on these pages. Last week I headed to Coastal Carolina in Jacksonville on behalf of a client.
The wife had applied for financial assistance and to that end submitted the required application. Part of the information requested on the form naturally involved her and her husband’s income as reported on their joint tax return.
Her submission was returned asking for additional explanations and she sought my help. What they were asking for didn’t make sense to me so I figured the best course was to go by the school and have a face-to-face, if I could find a face willing and able to clear this up.
As you may suspect by my tone, I’d already decided I’d have an uphill climb. First and foremost, anytime I have to deal with bureaucracies of any flavor I engage my Star Trek deflector shields and prepare for battle.
I found a visitor’s parking place smack dab in front of the entrance, which was a good start. So me and my attitude went inside.
Wow, I didn’t realize how Coastal had grown since the last time I was there so many years ago. Back then, I completed a course the judge had “suggested” if I wanted to keep my driver’s license. I was one speeding ticket over the line, paraphrasing an old song.
I walked the corridor from building to building until I saw a sign and arrow that directed me to “Financial Services.” That sounded like the place to resolve my client’s issues.
I explained to the receptionist the reason for my visit. She checked her computer and told me to have a seat in the waiting room and somebody would call me.
I found a seat among those already waiting and resigned myself that I had now entered bureaucratic purgatory so hoped to doze and daydream my way through the wait until the angels sang it was my turn.
Hallelujah, in just a few minutes they called me back! A very nice lady ushered me into her office. She was totally competent and instantly helpful.
I showed her the letter from the college and our original submission and explained the problem. She knew exactly what I was talking about and made copies of relevant exhibits.
With that, my client’s problem was taken care of and I was left feeling ashamed for the cynicism I’d initially harbored on this visit. I was clearly guilty of “bureaucratic profiling,” although I don’t think I invented it.
Truth be told, community colleges give the most bang for the educational dollar, nowadays often the “only” bang. Plumbers, electrical workers, air-conditioning technicians, laboratory workers, dental assistants and nurses all have a ready market demand.
I’ve seen hundreds of clients spend tons of money sending kids to expensive schools. Often when I inquire about Junior’s major they’ll often say he’s still “looking” for something he likes.
I have to stop myself from blurting out, “Does he like to eat?”
Otis Gardner’s column appears here weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.