Non-Degree Seeking

A student told me a story today that left me speechless. She applied to two grad schools and they both accepted her as a “non-degree seeking student” for an MA program. The student had no idea what this meant and came to seek my advice as to whether she should accept.

We all know how mild-mannered and soft-spoken I am, so I told her immediately that this is nothing but a shameless scam aimed at wheedling money out of her while offering absolutely nothing in return. (I didn’t make references to “evil freakazoids”, but I was on the verge of doing that.)

This is a student from a very modest background who is putting herself through school with a lot of hard work and personal sacrifice. She is not the kind of a person who can afford to take grad courses just for the fun of it with no hope of a degree at the end of the road.

Can you imagine the gall of some grad schools? They have invented this “non-degree seeking student” scam that allows them to take money from students while not even promising them a degree in return.

8 thoughts on “Non-Degree Seeking”

  1. No graduate school promises a degree. There are always students who drop out without a degree. I suspect that school’s department decided that this student had promise but needed a few more preparatory courses. We have done the same a few times, although we did not call it “non-degree-seeking.” Most of these students finished an M. S. degree in three years, not two. Only one that I recall did not finish a degree at all.


  2. I would have thought universities had enough to do teaching degree and post-grad students without adding ‘community general knowledge’ classes, and if they don’t, they are letting their students down.

    I wonder if they’re even allowed to offer non-degree courses – it must go against their rules. Universities are supposed to churn out scholars; if people want to fill in some spare time, they go to evening classes.


  3. Does this mean that it would not lead to a PhD at that school? I was in a program like that. I could have gone on to a grad school elsewhere but decided against it.


  4. So essentially, they wanted her to pay the full fees for an MA, in exchange for sitting in on classes and access to the library? Some unis here will let you audit courses – typically free if you’re a fee paying student enrolled on another course – non-students pay a modest fee to sit in on lectures and use the library and online resources, but the key word is modest.
    For my uni it’s a couple of hundred pounds – the yearly subscription fees to a single online database cost twice that, so it’s good value. And crucially, they DO NOT offer it as a substitute if someone has unsuccessfully applied to an undergrad/post grad degree program – it’s a completely separate option and not marketed to qualification seeking students.


  5. “I wonder if they mean that she would need to reapply after a year or some such.”

    They must — that is what this means conventionally. Normally, doing well in coursework for a semester or a year means reapplying and getting into the program. Coursework taken as non degree seeking person then counts toward degree unless it was actually preparatory coursework.


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