Felt I was back in war manuevering through a mine field called the new educational system yesterday.
Found out that a father of a teenager entering college can not get a letter from the school, unless the youngster accompanies the old man; even if the father enrolled his son there with proof a payment in hand. Went to the Montgomery County Community College, Blue Bell, PA, sans my son, and was greeted by a security guard when I raised my voice to a bureaucrat who refused me a letter under orders of the federal law. It seems Congress had passed a law that a student’s enrollment be kept top-secret. Confidentiality might be breached. You wouldn’t want just anyone to get to somebody’s school records.
But my son does not have a “record,’ I told the woman in charge Friday, August 13, a good two weeks before classes started. “I just paid his tuition, and he has not started classes yet. I’m his father. I don’t want the letter, but need the letter sent to someone else.”
Absolutely not, she said, getting bigger and more unmovable as I tried to reason with her, choosing perhaps not the best of words. “Can’t you see how asinine this is?” my voice rose, with heads from a dozen others in the admissions room turning in my direction. “I need a letter to continue his health insurance,” I added.
Looking down at me, the woman asked me to politely “lower my voice,” then raised her head as a security guard appeared at my side. It was a guy. Smiling. I guess to help defuse the situation with some deranged vet. I explained to him and the big boss lady that I was a Vietnam veteran who discontinued paying the insurance premium for my son on the advice of a spokesman for CHAMP, a program that helps totally disabled veterans with the high costs of health care for spouses and children. Children under age 23, if you show they’re in a recognized institution of higher learning. Like a community college. They’re picky. Want the kid’s name, social security number, the name of the school written on its Letterhead stating specifically the number of credits taken (at least 12 for full-time) and when the classes start and end. Also, how long the “program” would take to complete, for instance, two years for an Associated of Arts Degrees (AA).
I composed a letter for the school, containing my name, rank and serial number. (Actually, my name, VA claim number showing a 100% disability rating, as well as the letter CHAMP sent turning my son down when he graduated high school. Could have saved some $750, the cost for “S-CHIP” the past three months for the child’s insurance, if I had enrolled him in June. I stopped paying it, and informed CHIP the day before to end the coverage “immediately.”
Should have known better. The Ogre of an administrator at Mc3 could have care less. The law is the law, was her attitude. No matter what the cost. Or what a Charles Dickens’ character once called it: the “law’s an ass.”
But what about the spirit of the law? the lawyer in me wanted to ask. You may be good at quoting the letter of a law, but it’s intent was never to deprive someone of a basic need. Why could you not take my information, accept my detail-required letter, and allow my son to come to the school — a 60-minute round-trip from our Conshohocken, PA, house — to sign and approve the waiver of confidentiality? That would have been “thinking outside the box.” That’s what this “crazed Vietnam veteran” wanted from you. Just a little understanding and something you aparently are lacking: compassion. The security guard showed some, and would have tried to accommodate me if you stopped barking federal regulations at everyone. OK. You’re good at crunching numbers. Please stay away from dealing with the public, some of whom might be as “ill” or as “ill-prepared” as I am over getting a son squared away in college for the first time.
It could drive anyone a little nuts. Bonkers. Afraid the whole World’s gone crazy. But, at least the damn regulations will have been upheld under your system.