Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wiki've got a leak.


This will mean nothing to most people. But to those involved in the study of acupuncture and Oriental medicine and AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine specifically, it might mean a little something.

What follows is an email distributed by an AOMA student recently in reaction to a 3% tuition increase.
My comments on this email are this....

I graduated from AOMA in 2004, and am up to my eyeballs in student load debt. I didn't have to not work while in school. I didn't have to borrow the full amount I could. I could have borrowed only the amount of tuition and I'd have about half as much debt. But that's not what I chose to do. I OWN that, and I don't whine about it.

And so, to "Wiki Qi" I say:

First, if you are so all about OWNERSHIP, then speak for yourself instead of hiding behind the moniker of "Wiki Qi" and claiming to represent anyone other than yourself. I guess there's safety in numbers, even if they are imaginary. Talk about transparency issues. If Wiki Qi actually represents numbers of students then say who you are. What are you afraid of? You state below in your ridiculous email that whistle blowers cannot be retaliated against. One could construe from your language that you are actually implying AOMA is corrupt and/or breaking the law. Seriously.

If your perspective is that AOMA is a business and you their customer, and you are not a happy customer - and your dollars are your only leverage - then TAKE YOUR BUSINESS SOMEWHERE ELSE.You seem to view education as a commodity. So go find the better deal. Or better yet, do something else entirely if this is so disagreeable to you.

Your attempt to draw parallels between a 3% tuition increase at an acupuncture school and what has gone on recently with the financial sector in this country is beyond absurd. "Acupuncture schools are flourishing"? What planet are you on? You think somebody's lining their pockets with your 3% tuition increase? You have no idea what you are talking about.

Get a clue, and put your efforts into actually learning something instead of trying to tear things down you don't even know anything about. Talk about arrogance and ignorance.

Here's the "private" email that was sent around:

From: Wiki Qi <>
Date: Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 3:09 PM
Subject: Raised Tuition AGAIN?! Occupy AOMA! (Please read. This is YOUR education! Own ALL of it!)

Occupy the Bank of AOMA?
     The Bank of America was “bailed out” by the People -- the taxpayers -- and then it raised their fees as thanks.  The public was incensed and protested.  The bank recanted.

      Does AOMA seem to be acting similarly by raising tuition again?  Will they recant?
It seems there may be clear comparisons to protests all over the country and activities on campus:  Arrogance and ignorance?
(Come speak your mind at the meetings this week!  Follow each other and post your problems regarding this AOMA issue and others on Twitter:  @wikiqi.)
Points of concern:
     - Why did AOMA ‘build’ the school if they can’t afford it?  Why should students “bailout” another poor administrative decision yet again?
     - How has this new campus really benefited the student who, according to AOMA’s own numbers, will still be making only $20,000+ one year after graduating?   (Typically an education this expensive yields higher rewards/income and such an institution typically offers you more assistance.   We get little and the future is even declining.  AOMA needs to be investing in ventures that benefit careers and reduce expenses, not just spending money on poor landscaping.)
     - What other cost savings can be employed instead of using “bailouts” from students?  Shouldn’t AOMA pay it’s “fair share?”   Example:  The recent website and branding re-launch was quoted conservatively as costing $30,000.  Could we have used such funds more efficiently?  Where else have we wasted money?  (What about using some of those funds for online registration so we needn’t pay 7 staff members to write down schedules on paper and dry erase boards?  Technology=reduced costs=benefit to students.)
     - We are in a recession.  We just lost subsidized loans.  We had moving costs with the new campus.  The dollar is devalued.  The list goes on.  Yet the AOMA  administration frames the increase as if it is only a small percentage, when our overall costs have gone up and we have received many increases in total.  That is a manipulative and short sighted portrayal.  A key tactic in marketing:  Get them to take a little bite at first, then you can cram more down their throat.
Facts and Questions:
     - Acupuncture programs are flourishing, but their students are struggling -- and not just in the U.S.  Is that a symptom or a disease?  What is the root?  Should we be getting charged more money for a diminishing return?  Shouldn’t the market dictate that we adapt and not raise costs but lower them?  It seems if you want to make money in acupuncture, you need to get into administration or teach, not practice.  (If a person could be making more money not teaching, many would likely would not be teaching...)
     - On average an AOMA graduate finishes with over $100,000 in debt yet will make just $20,000+ a year after graduating while a Family MD’s median payout for his/her doctorate is $150,000 yet he/she will be making on average $207,000.  Granted, we knew this was not Wall Street and we like that!  But should the disparity be growing and the schooling getting more expensive?
     - The new school still lacks true quiet study space, a consolidated campus, more room, an improved clinic -- all the reasons they cited for moving!  It is marginally more pleasant, and it benefits AOMA, the business, and their pursuit of a  doctorate program that will pad their pocket books.  But the true benefits to an studen are negligible and to a graduate, next to nothing.
     - Academia functions like a business in a safe bubble.  Much like “greedy” banks have TARP funds.  Colleges get paid by Uncle Sam and have to adapt much less to the real economy of the real world.   Businesses have been hurting everywhere and downsizing, but AOMA aims to grow and make more money off their private, monopolized market:  The Students.
     - Increased student jobs on campus are provided by the government more than AOMA and should lower AOMA costs for personnel and therefore tuition.  
     - AOMA has family and investors under it’s employment that benefit from such increases.
     - AOMA constantly has administrative and transparency issues -- like not giving students loan money for months at a time!!!  This is not acceptable in a school this expensive, much less an increase of those costs!  Generally:  You pay more, you get more.  What do we get?
     Bottom line:  As students pursuing a career and a future we must be more vocal as customers in the present.  We are indeed customers and our dollar is not only a vote, it is our only leverage!!  
     Are we getting what we paid for?  Paid -- that is the key word.
     The school holds all other cards.  The one thing that balances is our identity as a customer -- and this identity position has been definitively defended in courts of the U.S. and 3 other countries, for both public and private institutions.  
     It is less about the reasons (and excuses) the school and the administration spout about costs and expenses.  It is about their lack of responsibility.  It is about their poor management and planning.  It is about them placing the desperate needs of the educational institution and our careers as high on the priority list as their business and money making pursuits.
     In the end, this is an acupuncture school and not Bank of America.

*This is a private letter from students to fellow students, initiated by Wiki Qi -- a student organization that meets outside of the school and thinks outside the box.
Thank you for your time.  Good luck!  This is a great profession!!!  We have to speak up and own it.

     -YELP, Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission =  Since you are a customer and AOMA a business, you can complain here and retaliation is legally suspect if not an outright violation of the Consumer Protection Act and or Free Speech Act.
     The same applies for most comments on social networks.  There was even another case recently decided in favor of a student out of Florida. 

     - FAFSA, Texas State Board of Acupuncture Examiners, Texas Health Department = If you have complaints about the school or it’s finances or clinic practices, this is where to go.  Retaliation is a legal violation of the Whistle Blower Act.
Note:  It was recently defended in court that the Freedom of Information Act applies to colleges/universities.  The defense stated that by cooperating and meeting regulatory requirements for federal financial assistance, such programs are, in so far as financial assistance is concerned at least, in effect arms of the government and subject to it’s laws and requirements.

If you want financial numbers, file a petition.  They must comply.