As a former graduate of BCTI, I hope that none of my former instructors or classmates takes any ill-will towards this report, as I have some fond memories about attending BCTI - although there were more bad than good. Anyways, here's my "graduate success" story:
In October 2002, I was unexpectedly laid off from my job as an Assistant Manager with Napa Auto Parts. It was something that I wasn't expecting - I was scheduled to go on vacation the week after I was laid off - so I decided to "start vacation" a week early. After getting back from my "vacation," I started to look for work, without any real results. After about two months of collecting unemployment, I had to go in for my review at the unemployment office on Tacoma Avenue. As I was walking out of the building after my review, I was approached by a gentleman who had asked about the prospect of going to school and learning about computers. I have always had an interest in computers, and thought "Why not." He set me up with an appointment to go to the campus (I had selected the Tacoma one) and take a tour of the facility.
When I had gotten there, I remembered it as the old location for Silver Platters before they had moved to Southcenter, so I was quite familiar with the area. I went in for my 3:30 PM appointment, and the person I spoke to (I can't remember her name) gave me the entrance "quiz" that I'm sure everyone got, to see if I was game or not. Then we went on tour the campus, where I got to see what each of the Progress Periods (PP) covered and who the instructors were. I also got to talk to few of the students, although that was mostly due to the instructors pulling someone aside to speak about their experience at BCTI. I pretty much got the same line from the student "representative" that I spoke to: that BCTI was about "family" and "being a team." I was impressed with the layout of the campus, and how things were setup (I had attended this "orientation" during the mid-day classes). We then moved on to the Phase II building, where they had pictures of Phase II students who had taken (and passed) their A+ Certification and Network + Certification tests, and was walked through the Phase II building. I also got to meet the Career Center representatives (who were *QUITE* different than the ones that were there my completion of studies). After the tour, it was decided that I would come back the next day (same time) to discuss financial aid and my formal start date.
I began attending classes in late January 2003 as part of the 0103C (evening) class. It was a small class of about 10-12 people. The instructor (who will not be named, nor will any of my instructors) gave us a basic rundown on what the class would cover and what projects would be done in the first Progress Period (the Microsoft Word program). Now, the people that were in this class were not the people that have been described on other reports on this website; the people in this class (with the exception of maybe 2 or 3) were people that had jobs and were looking to either (a) improve their job skills; or (b) look for another job (I should say "career" than the "job" they currently had. Pretty much all of us knew how computers worked, and how to navigate through Microsoft Windows. We didn't spend several hours on how to turn the computer on and off. The first two days were mostly walk-throughs on how to setup our accounts to log into the server and show us what all we could access (albeit limited at *that* time). By day three, we were already doing projects and other projects for extra credit.
At this time, I had been made aware of a job opening (at the place I am currently employed), and had gone through an interview there. When I mentioned that I was currently attending BCTI, the manager (at-the-time) mentioned that his wife had attended the same campus that I was attending, and had gone through both programs offered. Although he was looking for a closing person, he was more than willing to work with me as I had told him that I would look into transferring into the morning classes as there was someone who was working at the place that I had worked with at my previous job.
When I approached the Evening Direction of Instruction about my job situation, he had asked if I would like to continue with my studies until my start date at the new job or stop my studies and wait for the start of the next morning class that was about two weeks away. I chose to remain in the evening class so that I could remain with my fellow classmates and go to work during the day so I could learn the system there. After spending ten sessions (days) in the evening class, I said my goodbyes to everyone and looked forward to a new start in the morning class.
Upon restarting, I had to refill out all of my registration forms on several occasions, as my information had been "lost in the system" or "couldn't be found" in the transfer from evening to morning sessions.
The class that I had joined up with wasn't exactly a well-mannered or goal-oriented class. What would take ten sessions in the evening class, it took this class about 15 to do. I do not blame the instructor for this, we just had some people who did not belong in this class (or "institute" for that matter). We struggled through most presentations due to the disruptions of several individuals who didn't seem to care about what was being taught, and on several occasions assignments were paired up with other projects, giving us little time to complete them (let alone the stuff I had done before transferring from evening to morning classes couldn't be used).
In Progress Period 2, things were only getting started as the disruptions were only getting worse, and the projects/assignments were still being paired up. The big project at the end of PP2 was to do a full newsletter/newspaper, with the class being divided into three teams based upon seating assignment. This worked out well for the team I was on, as the team I was assigned to were ones that were getting fed up with the disruptions and unruly behavior. When it was said and done, I spent *ALL* of my free time at home (this was before the IT department blocked outside e-mails from coming in) editing and completing the project.
Things finally came to a head during Progress Period 3 when one of the disruptors got into a shouting match with another classmate about getting some help with an assignment. The instructor pretty much gave that person (and the class as a whole) a verbal whipping about how we should be working together as a team; this caused the PP3 project to be canned as a result.
At this time, myself along with some other classmates had been called into the Daytime Director of Instruction's office to discuss the disruptions after another classmate wrote a letter regarding the problems our class had. It more or less was blown off as a "communication problem" and were told to just keep doing things normal as the problems "would be taken care of."
Also around this time, the grant checks we were told about during our orientation were being distributed out. After it was said and done, a few people "mysteriously" stopped attending classes and were never heard from again.
By the time that Phase I was complete, our required "job search" was supposed to be turned in. This search required us to have a minimum of 30 leads on it; but it was waived for those who were moving on to Phase II (Advanced Information Systems - AIS) or for those that were already working. At no time did any instructor or Career Consultant ever ask to see these lists. In fact, there were only about eight of us that were showing up for class on a consistant basis; so how we ended up with a graduating class of 16 amazed most of us. At the ceremony, those of us that were working were recognized for the "careers" we had obtained during this seven-and-a-half month period; from fast food establishments to pizza delivery jobs to where I am still currently employed, we were honored.
After a week "off," there were four of us that moved on from Phase I into Phase II. I had been looking forward to Phase II, but looking back upon what was "taught" during the first two Progress Periods, it was kind of a waste, as the instructor just read out of the book that was given to us. Granted, it was information that I had been wanting to learn about, but there should have been more to our lessons than just reading from a book verbatim. Plus, the class was located in front of the Career Center, so we were always disrupted by people coming and going into and out of the Career Center (instructors, current students, former students).
It was at this time that one of our fellow classmates began to question their financial setup with BCTI, and began to ask questions about it. After basically being blown off, this person ended up quitting because of it. Little did I know that it was a sign of things to come.
I also was having some personal issues at the time, and one of the things that we were told was that the instructors were there to console us or help us out when needed. When I needed to talk to someone, I was more or less told that I shouldn't have ended up in my position; more or less I got blown off like "'Yeah, so what?'"
So know here we were, a class that was five people now down to three (one person quit due to questions on their financial package, and the other had been shipped off to serve in Iraq). The labs in the first two Progress Periods were fun in the fact that we were combined with the class that was behind us (and most of them were in the combined PP4/PP5 group during Phase I), so we weren't completely by ourselves. But for the next Progress Period (Networking), it was just going to be the three of us.
During this time, the instruction was quite in depth, and we were allowed to ask questions at any time. Sure, we did have a few goof-off moments, but the instructor knew we had to have a little fun in-between the long lectures and assignments. This was a fun time.
Towards the end of PP3, the three of us were each given a letter, which was dated December 29, 2003,that stated the following (this is the EXACT wording, as I still have this letter):
We have received an Electronic Funds Transfer in the amount of (amount) for your Subsidized Stafford Loan which has been credited to your account as of the above date. You have the right to cancel all or a portion of this disbursment. To do so, you must contact your site Funding Specialist within 14 days from the date you received this notice.
(For the record, the amount in my letter was for $1,724.00)
We were excited that we were gonna get "rewarded" for our hard work. With nearly two months to go until completing Phase II, the amount each of us was going to get would help us out.
We wouldn't see our respective amounts in two weeks.
It wasn't until mid-February when my two classmates were called into Financial Services and were each given a check for the amount stated in their letter. I was puzzled (read: upset) as to why I didn't get one. Upon inquiring as to why I did not receive one, my funding specialist told me (in these exact words) "I don't know."
I chose not to attend classes for the next three days due to "personal reasons."
Upon my return, my fellow classmates could see that I wasn't really with it, and had asked if it had anything to do with me not receiving my amount. I told them that for the most part it was due to that, but it was also due to the fact that I was working six days-a-week while still attending school. They encouraged me to check with my funding specialist regarding this. After inquiring about my amount, I was again told "I don't know" by my funding specialist. Not getting an answer took a mental toll on me, and my classmates knew it.
After a third inquiry with the same result, I "took a couple of days off" to contemplate whether or not to finish my studies.
Needless to say, it wouldn't be the last disappointment with BCTI.
It was approaching the time to plan our graduation, and the now four of us (we had someone who had taken an extended leave come back to finish their studies) were to graduate with the morning class that was going to complete their Phase I studies around the same time we were going to complete our Phase II studies.
As we neared the end of Progress Period 5, the graduates of the Phase I program are supposed to plan out the graduation ceremony and design the program. At no time were we ever involved in this process.
We didn't graduate with the Phase I students.
Apparently there was a mix-up as to what date the actual graduation ceremony was to take place. So they had their own ceremony; and the three of us (one person had started their new career position and would not be able to attend the graduation) were given the choice of either having ours on another date and graduate with the afternoon class that was graduating; or we could have our ceremony on the date we were told. With no real schedule of things, along with plans to take that day off from work and for our family memebers that were coming, we chose to have our ceremony on the date originally planned.
It would be a HUGE disappointment.
I had designed awards to present to our Phase II instructors during our graduation. One instructor couldn't make it due to an appointment. Another instructor, who was to have been our class-picked speaker, had to leave early. So we had to scramble to find a replacement speaker about 15 minutes BEFORE our ceremony took place. Overall, the whole thing lasted about 10 minutes, and it was pretty much a rushed event. Plus we had been told that we couldn't celebrate there as they didn't want the floor to get dirty (we had planned an off-site place to celebrate because of this anyways); so it was pretty much a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am thing.
I will say that the memories will always be with me, and if the two people who I made it through both phases are reading this, I would just like to say that I love you both very much and hope we could get together and laugh it up one more time.
However, I would like to voice my displeasure with Career Services in the fact that they did not help me find a career. In fact, I had told them that I thought about signing up for an internship that I had read about on Microsoft's website, and they discouraged me from signing up for it. This coming from a Career Center that was trying to reshape its image from one that got entry level jobs at fast food joints to one that would get you a job in the computer field - go figure! I am also displeased with the fact that I was only contacted ONE TIME by career services, and that was at my current job (the same one I had while attending BCTI) to verify if I was still there (I had since gone from part-time to full-time).
I am someone who went to BCTI looking for a new beginning in my life, and instead I am left with an empty wallet, major debt, and broken promies of working in the computer field. I am glad to see the school has closed so that more unsuspecting people don't sign themselves a financial death warrant, and I hope that those responsible for ruining so many lives get theirs in the end tenfold.
If anyone has information about the class action lawsuit, or information regarding reducing/eliminating loans, please contact me (all I have heard is that those that were currently attending would be excluded from loan repayment).