Sunday, November 05, 2006

Miami Dade College Number One...

Despite its management.

We've always been proud of Miami Dade College. Verticus Erectus is an alumnus of the North Campus-- as are most of the MVB staff with the possible exception of Sir Manny Mojito who says he's an Oxford graduate. In fact, looking back, Mr. Erectus argues his MDC professors were better there than those at the University of Miami where he finished his last two years. Today, the college ran a full-page color ad in the Miami Herald reminding everyone at considerable public expense that they are, among others, number one in these areas:
  • MDC enrolls the most students in the nation (163,000)
  • Awards the most Associate Degrees
  • Awards the most degrees in Nursing
  • Enrolls and graduates more Hispanic students than any other in the nation
  • Enrolls and graduates more African-American students than any other in the nation
  • Is the most diverse institution in the nation with students representing 171 countries and 84 languages

So why can't they pick up the phone or answer their emails in the International Student's department?

An Eastern European friend who recently graduated from high school told us he was looking into studying music studio production and jazz piano in Canada.We suggested, because he has been here many times-- Verticus booked him at Churchill's where he banged out some original compositions on their old upright-- that he consider MDC because they have some of the best music/film/TV production classes in the U.S. We told him to check them out through the Internet. About six weeks later, he got in touch to let us know that no one had responded to his numerous email queries and asked if we could help him out. When MVB agreed to help, we had no idea about what we were getting ourselves into.

After many emails to the North Campus International Student contact Ms. Tere Martinez went unanswered, we broke down and actually called the International Student department. In the beginning, we left messages because there was no one picking up the phone. This went on for half-a-dozen times over a couple of weeks. At one point, it got so bad that even the answering machine wouldn't kick in to take a message. As always, just when you promise yourself this is it, no more attempts, someone picked up the phone on our last call. Liz, a young woman on the other end, was very polite and apologetic. She explained that the department is inundated with queries and has fallen behind. She was able to answer most of the questions our friend had, but was unsure about the Tuition Assistance Institute which offers special financial incentives to students who live in a few select countries around the world. Our friend happens to be from one of those countries. She didn't have a clue about what we were talking about-- even though there was a link on the opening page of the International Student web site. She suggested MVB check with Financial Aid. We did, they didn't have a clue either and said we should go back to International Student Services.We did and got lucky twice in the same day. Liz again answered the phone and promised to get back to us before 4:30pm. Well, she did, but her department still didn't know what we were talking about. So, MVB clicked the link on the side of the their web page. The program is state funded to waive all or part of a foreign student's tuition. Only 25 are given out in a year for the whole state. Digging deeper, we discovered the Eastern Europe group is ran out of the University of Central Florida in Orlando. MVB sent the director, Jean Kijek, an email. We called them up and left messages. Nothing.

To this day, no one from Miami Dade College north campus has responded to our original emails. Tere Martinez hasn't called. Neither has anyone from the University of Central Florida. This leads MVB to believe that these state schools succeed despite themselves. If Miami Dade College president Eduardo Padron, the highest paid community college president in the U.S., took a cut in his $407,229 annual salary or a cut from his 31.5% salary supplement, maybe they could fund a couple more support staff positions in the north campus International Student department to answer the phones and reply to the emails.

Anyway, our friend will miss the winter semester because of the ineptitude of the MDC north campus. Hopefully he will be able to enroll for the fall semester. By the way, the kid speaks and writes perfect English and has a Cambridge Certificate of English to prove it. Unfortunately, MDC doesn't accept that one. He needs TOEFL certification. To prove he can handle the English requirements, he will have to take a TOEFL test at the college which to us sounds like another example of a badly ran bureaucracy at work.

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