My Ashford University Experience
Today is my last day at Ashford University online. I have completed exactly one course with the school. I wanted to share my experience with others in the hopes of helping someone to not make the same mistake that I did in my choice of schools. My experience was a nightmare once class started and I would like to help others to avoid experiencing the same turmoil I did.
Please understand that my experience is by no means unique. I will provide links to some other complaints about Ashford University's practices at the bottom of this hub. Contrarily, Ashford University may be a good fit for other students. Not everyone is going to have the same standards, be looking for the same things, or even have the same experience. My goal is to help you to make a decision about this school based on information that I still have not been able to find on their website.
You will find several hubs here on Hubpages that recommend Ashford quite highly. Just do a search and you will be able to find them. In the meantime, bear in mind that this is my personal experience. I am not parroting information from their website (after all, that would be plagiarism and plagiarism is bad.
The Convenience of Online Learning
Online learning offers incredible convenience. I chose to get my degree online because I felt that, as a stay at home mom, it would help me to avoid putting my daughter in daycare, which is unaffordable at this time. My hope was that I could earn a four-year degree in a timely manner without having to sacrifice my stay at home mother status. My own mother pointed out that in many ways online education offered me even more benefits: I wouldn't have to drive out in the snow, and I wouldn't need to purchase that third car or drop my husband off at work and pick him up every day (which would be disruptive to our daughter's schedule).
I debated for quite some time before deciding to attempt college online. At first I felt that I wanted to have the whole college experience by attending a brick-and-mortar university. I wanted to be a part of everything and I felt that this would be impossible if I went to college online. I began examining local colleges. Then, before I knew what was happening, my husband was enrolled at Ashford University. Because Ashford is one of very few online colleges that offers a journalism degree, he had chosen this school for his education, and he had done it very quickly.
Following his lead (because that's the kind of woman I am), I signed up as well. If the school was good enough for him, then there was no question in my mind that it was also good enough for me. Assuming that he had worked out the finances and that Ashford fit into our budget, I was ready to go. I assumed that when the school said they were "affordable" they were telling me the truth.
The Cost of Ashford University
I was more than halfway through my course when I discovered that Ashford University was costing me nearly as much per credit hour as Miami University in Ohio on the ground. My husband, several friends and I were all told that Ashford University's costs were $372 per class. Instead, this is the cost per credit hour. Admittedly it is true that any one of us could have found the correct information by scouring the website for clues as to the monumental cost of a bachelor degree at Ashford University. However, we were so eager and under so much pressure from enrollment officers that we simply didn't.
I am willing to accept the blame for being lazy and not looking deeper at the costs of college before I enrolled. I am not happy that we appear to have been lied to and put under pressure to enroll, but it was entirely my fault that I didn't examine the costs before I applied for student aid and began my first class. I was also led to believe that books were included in the cost of the class: they are not.
Ashford University Boxed Me In
One thing that I was looking forward to at college was the opportunity to explore different subjects that interested me. I am a natural learner and frequently go on knowledge sprees. The current spree (at the time of writing) includes practicing speed tests for basic arithmetic. My own interests are diverse and I truly enjoy learning new things. I was eager to tackle some history classes, literature classes and maybe an anthropology or psychology class.
Instead, I came up against a brick wall of sixteen required general education classes. Before you go off half-cocked, dear reader, allow me to assure you that I understand why general education is required and I know that all universities have their requirements. I have not, however, encountered in the past a single college that pre-enrolls you in a pre-determined set of classes of the college's choosing. Nothing was elective: it was all decided for me before I even enrolled. All Ashford University students take this list of classes, from EXP 105 (or PSY 202 if you are transferring credits in) to SOC 101, with several more classes in between (including the standard English classes and the required Math. Theory that is).
This wall of classes made me feel trapped and uncomfortable. Several of the classes appeared to have a deliberate liberal agenda and seemed that they could serve no purpose other than indoctrination. Others were simply of no interest to me. Watching my husband take PSY 202 told me that I would be entering into at least two classes that were of no benefit or interest to me, and which taught little or nothing of relevance to my major or my life in general.
Most colleges give you choices. In fact, my transfer college has offered me so much choice that my mouth is watering in anticipation of taking some truly exciting classes. Some colleges offer so much choice that the process is downright confusing. What to take, when, and why? Ashford simply takes your personality out of the equation, and instead gives you the one they want you to have.
In fact, the books at Ashford have become a major bone of contention for me. While the book fee for my first class was credited back to me as a kind of a "bonus" for enrolling, the original fee was $75 for the digital course materials. The books are run through a program called Constellation, which is, admittedly, pretty amazing. The problem that I had was that the books are not. At 89 pages (in PDF), my book was little more than a booklet. Bearing in mind that five of these pages were taken up with massive images, plus the addition of other images throughout the text, and there isn't much content to the text. Furthermore, the book was written by Ashford University Faculty, poorly edited and often rambled, as though the writers were making an effort to make their paragraphs "long enough" for the current standards (whatever those may be).
In other words, the cost of the text was disproportionate to the quality contained therein. While there was some useful information that helped me as a home schooling mother, I did feel boxed in and uncomfortable with the overall lack of new knowledge being offered by the class.
And the Strangest Thing...
The strangest thing about my experience with Ashford University was the order of the classes. There are two required Introductory classes that must be taken first by anyone who does not have transfer credits into the University. These classes are EXP 105 (which I took) and PSY 202 (which my husband took). While EXP 105 doesn't require you to write in perfect APA style, there are some situations in which you need to understand the particular grammar preferred by the American Psychology Association in order to make the most of your assignments. PSY 202, on the other hand, grades you on your ability to write in perfect APA style.
Bear in mind that EXP 105 is the first class, as required. PSY 202 must be taken next. You have no choice. You must take these two classes. Once you have completed PSY 202, you will go on to take ENG 121, at which point you will learn how to write in APA style. After you complete ENG 122, you will go on to take INF 103 Computer Literacy, which will teach you how to use all of the programs you have been required to use from the first class.
If you aren't already proficient with Microsoft Office by the time you have finished your second class, I honestly am not sure that a computer literacy class is going to help you to understand how to use it. If you have already been tested on how to write in APA style and have had points removed from your papers if you don't reference things perfectly, you probably don't need to take English Comp I.
After that, the classes get much more general. However, these first five classes are entirely an anomaly and I am not sure how Ashford gets away with it without having a larger number of student complaints. Unless, of course, they don't get complaints because it is just so easy to make an A in their classes.
The Financial Aid Department
First of all, let me be clear that it is not your school's responsibility to take care of your financial aid for you. I understand this and am fully aware of my personal responsibility for my financial aid. The majority of the financial aid complaints about Ashford seem to have been resolved, but you will see some of them listed below in the links. I thought that it was only fair to try to make you as aware as possible of their past problems with the government and with the way they issue financial aid. The best advice I have is to not grant authorization for Ashford to hold your funds. I am having enough problems with them and I did not grant the authorization.
My experience wasn't as bad as some, but it has been disconcerting. Two weeks ago I sent a message to my financial aid adviser requesting information regarding the refund and return of Title IV policies. I never received an e-mail in response, and I sent him a total of three messages before my husband got a response from him saying that he no longer worked for Ashford University. The next day he disappeared from my list of advisers and was not replaced by anyone. I was never notified personally by the university or given someone else to contact.
However, two days ago he reappeared on my list. I don't know whether he was re-hired, but I find it unusual and uncomfortable that he was gone and suddenly returned to work. When I questioned an admissions supervisor, I was told that my financial aid adviser no longer worked for the university, so the information was confirmed.
Now I have received several disbursement letters from Ashford but do not have my money in order to make arrangements with my transfer school. I have no adviser to contact regarding the return of the Title IV funding so that it can be transferred into my transfer school, either. I am in limbo.