Attorneys help students through maze of higher education
Imagine you’re in the middle of a series of long, dark hallways full of twists, turns, switchbacks and dead-ends. You’ve been traveling these halls for a long time. Or did you just enter them yesterday? You’re not certain. All you know for sure is that at the end of this maze is a prize worth having, and you’re determined to reach it.
Then, up ahead, you see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Exultant, you sprint for the exit and your well-earned reward. You dive for the light when, suddenly, a wall slams down in front of you, followed by a wall behind you. A note drops from the ceiling. You open it and read, “You lose. Now get out!” Then the floor drops out from under you and you pitch forward into darkness.
If this reads like someone’s fevered nightmare that’s because it’s the nightmare faced by many university students. Navigating the labyrinth of today’s higher education programs is a feat of endurance, patience and perseverance. It’s a daily struggle of picking classes, keeping up with the work, and making sure that all of the proper paperwork is filed in order to get your degree. As a recent law school graduate, I know.
All of that is enough to occupy the life of any student, no matter what program he or she may be in. What many students forget about is the system of rules and regulations that runs parallel to their academic pursuits. And for the unsuspecting student, those rules and regulations can slam down on him/her at the worst possible time.
Since returning to work at HooverLaw, LLC, I’ve had the opportunity to help out on a number of cases involving college and university students. These cases all share common themes: a complex set of rules and regulations written in a way that favors the school’s administration; the rigid application of those rules to a situation only tenuously connected to them; and a student who just wants to get his or her degree. To say that the deck is stacked against these students is an understatement, because there is no deck. Like in my metaphor, a university’s policies can come crashing down like a ten-ton wall, and for the student, who’s rightly 100 percent absorbed in his /her studies, that wall can appear completely insurmountable.
Fortunately, there is hope and help for university students. As with grade schools, universities must afford due process to all of its students. While it is true that private universities need not afford as much due process as a public institution, they still must abide by their own published rules and regulations. Far too often those rules and regulations are pushed aside in the name of expediency and preservation of fiscal resources. The universities forget that there’s a real human being on the other side of that student ID or Social Security Number; a real human being who’s put in years of effort and who simply wants a fair chance to earn what they’ve set out to earn.
Attorneys can help college and university students through the process of academic appeals, with the steps necessary to obtain accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and with the many other steps that they can take to obtain that fair chance at getting their degree. In other words, attorneys can help students break down those walls, should they crash down in front of them.
If you or someone you know is experiencing such difficulties, don’t hesitate to call us. You may think that involving an attorney would only make matters worse; that it would only anger the administration. But trust me: the administration has its attorneys working for them. Having your own can level the playing field.
Bryan Utter is a graduate of the University of Missouri and recently passed the Maryland Bar. He is currently working as a law clerk at HooverLaw, LLC.