(Full Disclosure: I am a CSF student and a Santa Fe Reporter Intern.)
Let's just say this: this blog post has been an adventure. It seems that every time I sit down to write this, all the information has changed. It's been interesting, to say the least, to watch the school figure out the details of the teach-out plan at the same time that I'm supposed to be submitting applications and doing the legwork to secure my spot. At this point, most of the hard facts seem to finally be nailed down.
There's a very useful update within the CSF FAQ page that describes the teach-out plan in detail. While the plan looks simple enough on paper, though, I've found it to be nothing short of a medium-sized disaster in real life.
In theory, the teach-out plan is relatively straightforward: If you have 48 credit hours or fewer left on your degree, you can take classes at a participating college or University (UNM, Columbia College in Chicago or IAIA) over the next 12 months and at the end of that time, you walk a way with a CSF diploma.
One real advantage to the teach-out plan is that it allows students to graduate while spending much less money than the same amount of time would have cost them at the College of Santa Fe. Students re-routing to UNM, for example, automatically receive in-state tuition. Even with the $500 fee required for each teach-out term, that's a lot of money saved. It's this as much as anything else that's motivating me (and, I'm sure, lots of other students) to forge ahead with the teach-out plan despite the enormous amount of time, stress, and paperwork involved.
Another perk is that all teach-out students remain CSF students, subject to CSF's graduation requirements (i.e., no math or foreign language necessary).
The step-by-step process for the teach-out option is different for each participating institution. The details can be found here.
Unfortunately, the streamlined procedure outlined on CSF's website ignores the human element. Filling out paperwork, ordering transcripts, getting last-minute credits transferred, and setting aside time to meet with faculty and administrators as stressed out as the students they serve isn't anyone's cup of tea. I've spent the past week circulating a single e-mail around the CSF Registrar's office and basically getting nowhere. I've filled out the UNM application twice only to have it mysteriously erased both times. With four weeks left of the school, it's also crunch time. Many classes are already gearing up for finals, and in a lot of cases, there just isn't time to deal with extra hurdles of the teach-out plan.
There's still some doubt about how long the teach-out program will actually take to complete. A letter was sent out on April 14 via CSF e-mail announcing, "The Board at the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) will review our teach-out arrangements this Friday and give us a formal response." According to the e-mail, "the one remaining question is whether or not the HLC Board will approve our extended accreditation for the teach-out through August 2010 or whether it will end June 2010. If we are approved only through June 2010 students can not include a summer 2010 in their transfer credits back to CSF for graduation; only students done with requirements at the end of the spring 2010 semester can graduate from CSF."
For students like me, who have barely enough credits to qualify for the teach-out program, graduating at the end of the Spring 2010 semester would mean attending summer school and possibly taking an overload of credits during one or more terms. If the teach-out option is extended to August 2010, that means that a student like me would have more leeway in terms of how many credits to take per semester, but might be stuck in school for a total of 15 months. That's a long time.
It's difficult to determine, at the outset, what the effect of these factors will have on one's academic career. I've been asking myself whether 15 months of continuous education and/or an overload of classes during one or more terms might lead to burn out and a tanking GPA.
Despite all the unknowns and day-to-day headaches, though, the teach-out isn't a bad plan. It acknowledges the effort that CSF Juniors and Seniors have put into their degree. In many ways, it's probably the kindest thing CSF administrators could have done under the circumstances. It's worth a leap of faith to try it out in real life.