Be warned, this is long winded. I've had a year and a half to mull things over. :o) In advance, I apologise for its length.
I've read reports on both sides under 'Al Collins' or 'Collins College' - four entries at the time, some even quipped with rebuttals and updates. Might be some more, but I haven't really investigated further than the first.
I guess it's really not needed other than to satisfy my own curiosity.
So, here's my story.
First, I will say it's true that you get what you put in. Motivation is key. Having done the school thing for four
years now, I've been up to the University level, the Community College level, and now, the 'Private' Trade-School level. I've worked hard to get where I am. Of them all though, I have to admit to being apalled with Al Collins.
I wouldn't recommend it to anyone if it were the last school on Earth. :o) From the first day on, it's been a roller coaster ride of unpleasant surprises - if it weren't for those, I guess it'd be almost alright. And I mean what I say when I say from the first day: I remember it like it were yesterday; 'protesters' stood outside the gates of the school with signs held high.
Now, I've seen protesters at schools before, but usually they stood for something in the Human Rights category - you know...Affirmative Action, or Womens Rights or 'no more mugging people at the Circle K'. I saw one one time back in 1999 outside my dormatory Window in rural city University Pennsylvania that read: 'Go Home Saddam' - whatever the heck that meant. Or...whatever, you get the point. I've seen students angry at an administration. I even saw - almost participated in - a student strike. Heck, I've seen professors strike before, and -that- was no fun. But these guys were against the school itself. The school as a whole. All of it, not just a small measly part or one department. I'd never seen that before, nor with more passion than these folks.
Thats a very scary thing on your very first day, I wish I could fully convey that to you. I asked one of them on
the way in to the school itself, "Why?" Why were they protesting? They were protesting for the very same reason
I've decided to write up this complaint (one which no one will probably ever read, but hey, it makes me feel
better to vent): They felt cheated. Cheated out of both time and money - if you're anyone thats anyone, you know
that as you get older those two things are VERY precious.
Being young, on my own (with very little financial help
from home), working full time and going to school full time, I can't imagine what it's going to be like when I get older! At the time, I had figured them to be a bunch of dropouts who were disgruntled over and under the fact.
That was my experience before, after all. After almost 18 months now, I almost envy them. Sadly, however, I'm a
very stubborn person and I'm certainly not a quitter. No offense to the protesters - they're probably better off
having dropped this place. I blame my stay here on myself (almost proudly). :o) About the protest, however, I said to myself that that was unusual; but, being young and out on my own for the first time, I figured hey, the world is made up like that; if you watch the news, read the paper, surf the 'net, you generally get to know a scam when you see one, right? The administration at least tried to cover themselves afterward. So I let it go.
18 months. If I recall the words of my Admissions Representative correctly (one of whom 'mysteriously' disappeared on my first day - no one would tell me where she went, not even my newly assigned Rep), she'd said that the program I was in was an 'accellerated 18 month program'. Unless you're going automotive or to some other
certification course, I don't think I'd recommend -any- accellerated proram to anyone. In my time here at Collins, my class core curriculum has changed innumerable times, and continues to change; classes that were up front are dropped, and those before are put ahead and those ahead just...disappear. Ones that everyone says 'is important' to understanding the field. And then, it changes again to a different tune a month later. But! That said, this isn't unheard of for Private or Trade Schools - I attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for a summer course during high school in 1997, and many of students there have had the same complaints; What students I know are going to the Art Institute of Phoenix have said very much the same as well. So, okay. Can I forgive that? Sure.
18 months though. I look back; Hindsight is better than foresight. '18 months' is a semantic; We don't get 18
months of education. We just attend for 18 months - its like saying, okay. We'll enroll you to a four year
college, and you pay for it, but...we're only going to give you, lets say...two years worth. Its not that extreme, but I think you get the idea. And when I say that, I mean the full-time creditable hours - I don't expect to be at school 24/7 for those 4 years, right? All schools are like this :o) It shouldn't really be a complaint, and this is more just advice for something to watch out for if you're looking to go to a school. But the way it's laid out to us here at Collins is also a bit unfair in my humble opinion. You see, all of our classes here are structured on a five week basis, and during those weeks, you go four days out of the five, monday through thursday - Fridays you get off. Which is fine by me, I guess :o) When I went to University, I usually tried to schedule classes that way anyways. But, having just gotten through Christmas, its kind of odd...we got a couple of weeks off for Christmas and New Years, and the Thursday right after new years, January 2nd, we're slated to come into class.
One day of the whole week. That doesn't bother me. But what does bother me is that that one day counted as an entire week of our five weeks; Thats at /least/ three days I didn't get out of my 18 months - four days in my
next-to-final class too - time is money, they pound into our heads. Kids usually get to go home then - many are
from out of state. Are they going to fly back the day after New Years for five hours of school? I can tell you
personally, that the campus was desolate on the 2nd.
Alright. That said, in the industry, it works like that too. You might be required to work a holiday. Maybe not
even get paid for your extra hours and efforts. Maybe put in the hours, not for the money, not because your boss
says so (and he will, believe me), but because there's a deadline thats upcoming, or maybe even past. You gotta
show up, or it'll mean your job; you're an integral part of the machine. From there, it could be disaster if you
don't; no job, no money, the bills stack up and you run out of gas and food and then you die. Well. Okay, not that
drastic, but you get the picture, right? Its hard out there. But...This /isn't/ a job - this is our education.
When we get to go out there, when we finally get around to growing up (I'm 22, going to be 23 this year, woo!),
we're going to get to see family less and less. We're going to get to develop our own families - for those of us
who don't already have them. These...18 year olds, 19 year olds, they /need/ time with family...okay, nevermind.
Off the soapbox on that one, or else I'll go on forever about it. :o) Point is this: Tell us how it is, and then
let us live it after we graduate. Don't make it hard for us to get the education and the skills needed to get
there, especially when it's OUR money thats paying for it. Its an injustice that we shouldn't have to pay for.
A lot of good folks didn't make it this time around, because of that. And I say that like a defeated General who
lost his troops - friends even - in a battle lost.
Have I wasted eighteen months here? No. No, I haven't. I'm not done with Collins yet...I have a month to go; I'm
not quitting after all this time, after all this money. I have taken almost everything that I can from here. I'm
still debating perhaps fighting to get my money back. But I will say too, that I've been fortunate enough to have
gotten a few instructors worth their weight in gold; I don't blame them, or even the department or curriculum for
my misgivings. They're just people - just like my instructors and professors before (though, I /do/ wonder about
the student who graduated, then a few days later became an instructor - an instructor who has had -no- field
experience? Nice guy. But a few fries short of a happy meal, dig? Isn't that what a trade school is all about?
Experience from the field? Hey, I understand folks gotta survive, but even -I- wouldn't sink THAT low). I blame
the school, and its poorly set (money-mongering) administration.
I'm still fighting the financial assistance office. That little flimsy piece of paper that will represent a degree
in two months time? while it has Collins College written on it, it also means that I accomplished... well...
something, I'm sure. I endured. Will I tell anyone I graduated from Collins? Uh. No. Not no, but HELL no. If I get
rich and famous, the school doesn't deserve mention. I -will- credit the few instructors individually whom have
helped me gain the skills that I previously didn't though - they, on the other hand, DO deserve that. Outside of
that? I learned most of what I know on my own. By investing my time both at home, and in those labs.
While I haven't gotten my 'moneys worth' from this school, it /does/ boast half-decent technology and software
(This coming from a former computer lab student worker at both the University and Community College level - the
computers and software at Collins College IS hard to work with, don't get me wrong, but you have to consider that
hundreds of students are using those computers every day, and for what its worth - they keep them half-decently
upgraded and running - even in the field, you can expect them to crash and you can expect to lose your project the
day before a deadline :o), and we're welcome to use the labs post-graduation, according to the instructors and
department heads. Further, if you've read one of the other complaints under 'Collins College' about not being able
to 'touch' some of the newer courses, they're now allowing us to take the new courses previously unavailable to
those classes, again, post-graduation (such as 3D Max, and perhaps Lightwave if they get it) for free. We'll see
about that, maybe even do an update later on about how -that- goes. Does this make the school any better? No. I
still don't recommend it. :o)
Was it a mistake? For a choice in education, yes. As a life experience, no. But - thats me; I'm still young, I've
got the rest of my life ahead of me. For those bought into it later in their lives and feel that they've been
cheated, let me tell you to keep up hope and keep your chins high. Teach your children well :o) For those thinking
about it, stay clear. I will tell you that it was a waste of twenty-five thousand dollars (Thats $25,000 - in
loans, no less - a formidable amount; One could easily attend their community college or some small universities
for that much for a Four Year degree - having done the research, I could have, and probably should have).
On the schools reputation? Currently, I'm working for the Air Force as a civilian just outside of town, working
with Multimedia, computers - the whole schebang. I'm one of the lucky ones. Going back to the start, its about
motivation, its about going out and getting what you want. Heck, when I tell folks I get paid holidays, they smack
me in the face with a french fry. But, in joint, I also work with a community college here that's contracted out
and deals with Virtual Reality. It's really cool :o) The person I work with, Mary, is perhaps one of the most
talented folks I've ever had the pleasure of working with. However, she herself has employed and worked with a
number of students straight out of Collins College and has stated that she will never do so again; she had
misgivings about me until I told her my full background - having University as well as other educational
experience beforehand spoke loudly in my favor thereafter. Having asked a few other folks in the Valley, both
reputable and unreputable, they too have stated the same. Its an unspoken, under the table rule that they don't
hire from Collins College.
Probably because we whine too much. ;o)
But they also gave some advice that I think would be helpful to ANY prospective student for the future to ANY
college, university or post-educational institution (some are stated in the rebuttals and comments in other
follow-ups here in the 'Collins College' category):
o ALWAYS research the school you're looking to attend, most especially those who shovel out promises like candy.
Remember: A school's word is worth nothing verbally, I don't care what kind of school or what reputation it has or
if it comes down from the Top Dog, Dean of the University or President of the School (used to live by Princeton,
you know). I should have known that when I came here. If they promise it, if they /guarantee/ it, then get it in
writing (and that'll never happen, believe me :-> I've toyed with every system there is short of an Ivey-League
school). Get a signature to go with it from the said person if you can. Because if you're really cheated
afterwards, you can go back and sue them for lots of moola. If not, well. Its then your loss. Also ALWAYS research
what your field requires in order for you to get a job in that area. :o) Always know your market - that's a key to
success (and no, I didn't get that from some self-help book - thats personal experience).
o Let me tell you that if you're looking to go to a Trade School, chances are you don't need to go. If you have
to, then don't go for an Associates Degree. An Associate's is sort of like partial-circumcision. Either get
certified (ASE for you mechanics - that speaks endless words, N+ for you network folks just starting out), or go
for a full baccelureate's degree. Folks in the field I'm in (multimedia/Animation) will tell you that you don't
need a degree. Right now, I'm facing the possibility of never moving up in my position unless I /do/ have a BFA in
/something/. But, thats for the government. Outside of that, if you have skills, then yeah, definitely skip the
schooling; If you have skills in the area's you're looking at, you might be able to get a job straight off. Now, I
say that because right now, I'm also looking to get a job thats government /contracted/ - they'll /pay/ for the
entirety of my furthered education because of the field I'm in, possibly up to a Master's degree. Why get one of
those? Eh, I dunno. Because its FREE. Eh, aside from the time put in, but hey, I have lots of time. Be careful of
this too though, because they might require you to be employed by them for a number of years ;o)
o Always read the fine print. Never depend on an advisor or representative. Just like Car Dealerships and Military
Recruiters, they're salespeople. They'll do quite nearly anything short of illegal to get your money. Some might
even tell you the truth - but not the whole truth, and that can be just as dangerous. Research your financial
options too - there are a LOT of other ways to pay for school other than out-of-pocket or through loans. Loans are
helpful, but don't get them unless you need it - BEWARE of the Parent Plus loan! THAT is a true ripoff - I didn't
read, I got screwed. My parents too, who want to disown me over it (just kidding). :o) If a school offers that to
you, tell them to shove it - and I mean that. Any loan that requires you to pay while you're in school just isn't
a loan to me. Oh! And DON'T let them make you believe that because you're under 25 that thats the only loan you
can get. If they tell you that, you have NO business going to that school (Collins College told me this time and
time again). Its just plain BS. Check out http://www.fastweb.com first. A word about scholarships too - don't do
them online unless it specifically requires it :o) Print out the form, and snail-mail it, or if you can,
In conclusion (finally, huh?), if you're out of high school and searching to further your education, don't do it
because your parents or anyone else tells you its the right thing to do (which it is, in my humble opinion, but
hey...). Do it for yourself. Build the drive, and then work and fight for it. Or else, you might just find
yourself with a degree thats meaningless. Learn to go to school for free - life gets easier that way. There are
tens of thousands of Scholarships out there for a hundred million different trades. Shoot for them. They're not
hard to get, and all you have to invest is time; what you get back is a lifetime's worth of help. Oh yeah. And
stay away from credit cards. Those things are ripoffs too. Evil ripoffs.
No matter what, school's going to be tough, good bad or indifferent. It'll suck rocks while you're attending
(you'll probably look back later, wave your hand dismissively and laugh while saying 'Nah, it was a breeze.' - but
thats going to be later). But if you do do it, keep your chin up and get it done. Remember life is learning;
there's no such thing as wasted time, just wasted money and sometimes wasted effort. In the end, they are right
when they say it is what you make of it.
U.S.A. Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Al Collins Graphic Design School