A Study in Transcripts?

“Your application to the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts for Fall 2019 was not complete by the deadline…Therefore, we regret that we must withdraw your application at this time.”

This is not the message I had hoped would arrive in my email this morning; unfortunately, it was the one I expected.

My chances of getting into the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor were wrecked due to a policy at UM-Flint. This approach prevented me from submitting an official copy of my academic transcript–an integral part of any application.

What seemed to be a small issue in my application process would turn into a deep dive through the University of Michigan-Flint administrative process.

Little did I know completing the common app was the easiest step I would be facing when applying to the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

It all began when I checked my email. I received a message from the National Student Clearinghouse stating; “We’re sorry, we will need additional time to process your transcript request in order to verify your records or student status.”

This was concerning as I’m pretty sure I am an active student who has completed classes. Had something changed? Was my time at the university now void for some misstep I may have taken?

No, that couldn’t be, I know my record is good. And more importantly, I had two years of debt to show for it. This needed to be sorted out–the sooner the better as my admission chance at Ann Arbor was on the line.

I decided the easiest way to get to the bottom of this was to follow the money, so I made my way to the Cashier’s Office. I explained to them I needed my transcript sent to Ann Arbor. This didn’t seem to me like a difficult thing to accomplish as officially I am a U-M Student.

Hell, UM-Flint slaps that big yellow M on everything, you’d think Ann Arbor would already have my transcript, or at least share a database.

The clerk explained to me this case wasn’t as black and white as I had suspected. I was told that because I, along with a large percentage of students on campus, owe the university money. This activated a policy which puts financial holds on the accounts of those whose balance with the university isn’t zero.

This hold prevents those affected from sending their official transcripts to any institution. My dreams of transferring to the Ann Arbor campus were growing bleaker.

I held my ground. I acknowledged that technically I did owe the university money. However, I was on a payment plan. I had never missed or been late on a payment last year and was able to send my transcript then, so what was the issue? They were supportive of me, stating they had spoken to others who had shared my predicament and that this new phantom policy was creating more problems than it was solving.

The Dean of Students, Dr. Julie Snyder, was made aware of my situation and was working to find a solution. In the meantime, I decided to make more inquiries on my own. I spoke to an academic advisor whose response was more bafflement than shock. She had been in contact with a number of students who all had the same issue. Her opinion turned out to be similar to that of the person I spoke to at the Cashier’s Office–this policy seemed to only be a detriment to the general populous.

After days of sitting in my office, watching the hours go by, I decided to drop by Dr. Snyder’s office to see if there were any updates on my case. She explained to me that she was doing all she could and hopefully, a solution would present itself soon. For the time being, I was satisfied. Who best to solve a student’s problem than the Dean of Students?

A month had passed and I now faced the realization that perhaps my case didn’t have a solution. I took my personal feelings aside, as well as what little hope I had of sending my transcript out, and decided to keep pursuing this phantom policy. If it was too late for me, maybe I could help others.

I took the issue straight to the top and called Ann Arbor to see if their policies matched with those of their satellite campuses–they did not. Their finance department explained to me that students on a payment plan are protected from this policy and that the only time a hold is placed is when a payment is late or missed.

Could it be? Could the leaders of the west, the beacons for diversity and inclusion be putting its poorest and most indebted campus at even more of a disadvantage? Surely, someone had an answer.

I called the UM-Flint Registrar’s office and was told only certain students in Ann Arbor are protected. However, one look at Ann Arbor’s finance website said this: “If the full payment is not received by the due date, a $30.00 late payment fee may be assessed as of the due date in addition to the financial hold that will be placed on your account.”

In addition to the financial hold that will be placed? I’m no Shakespeare but that language implies no financial hold existed beforehand. A student on a payment plan with no hold? What a novel idea.

To anyone from Ann Arbor that may read this piece: I would be more than happy to make my investigative skills available to you, however, my Fall 2019 application was not completed by the deadline and was withdrawn.


This piece originally appeared in the winter 2019 issue of The Michigan Times, released on March 18.