November 7, 2014: Getting an Education
We got an appointment with the Chancellor of SUNO (Southern University of New Orleans) to discuss Efrem’s enrollment so that he could finally finish the degree he started back in SA. SUNO has managed to foster a very welcoming environment for international students, particularly students from the African continent, given that the Chancellor himself is originally from Nigeria. We had a great discussion about what Efrem wants to do; he suggested programs that would be ideal for him, and he brought in all the people that needed to advise us about possible next steps given what we already had in the way of paperwork, as well as what else we needed to obtain.
We had to do a lot of explaining about visa status (they weren’t familiar with a K-1, typically only dealing in tourist and student visas), what kind of documentation he had, what he could get his hands on, etc. They were explaining all the possible scenarios, luckily a few of which got eliminated in further discussion. First it was, well if his high school certificate isn’t accepted then he could study for the GED and pass it easily, after which he’d have to possibly take the COMPASS and the ACT. Luckily, that was ruled out because he’d already started taking college courses in SA, evidence enough that his high school certificate was adequate. Then was the question of the TOEFL, but since English is an official language in SA he may not have to do that either. Finally, they concluded that his entry status would be as a transfer students and that he would need to have his college transcripts evaluated to determine the US equivalents for credits and grades so they could find out if he has the full 18 hours worth of freshman credit, an adequate math class, and an adequate English class. They said he wouldn’t be admitted if he required any remedial math or English.
Well, there was the hitch. I had been bugging him to get an official sealed copy of all of his transcripts before he left the country. He didn’t get anything sealed, in fact, he really didn’t get anything new at all when he went to the college to inquire about his records. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. The folks working at those colleges in Johannesburg were not at all amenable to helping Efrem get the correct documentation. (Xenophobia for the win). It turns out his having a sealed copy wouldn’t have made much of a difference anyway, because the evaluation process requires international transcripts to be sent directly from the institution to an external company. I asked them, what if he couldn’t get the college to send them directly? I mean they gave so much push back with regards to just getting a copy of his record when he was there in person, and now he isn’t even in the country to stay on top of it or bribe them if need be (which is often necessary in SA if you’re a foreigner). They said we should call and see if any of the companies would make an exception, but looking at the websites at home, it seemed as if that would be an exercise in futility.
Then there were the fees. There is always a fee, always another thing to pay: $160, plus shipping, plus the fee to have results sent to the university you’re applying to, and then, depending on the company, a fee to have the original documents mailed back. So really about $200+.
Can we ever catch a break from having to pay someone? Can we live?
Upon further examination of his transcripts at home, we realized he never took an English class at the college in SA, in fact, they didn’t really require it. So now we’re thinking he may have to take English at Delgado (community college) and then try and start at SUNO in the summer or next fall, which is probably how long we will need to coerce the college in Joburg (or get a friend still in country to go to the college and slip them a “little something”), to send his transcripts to the external evaluators.