“Congratulations! You have been accepted into the Ithaca College Los Angeles (ICLA) Program for Spring 2022.” When I received this email at 12:27 a.m. March 20, 2021, I was over the moon. The ICLA program was one of the main reasons I chose Ithaca College, so you could imagine my excitement when I found out I was accepted into the program. Imagine it — working at a fancy advertising agency by day and taking classes for a major I loved — it sounded like a dream. The opportunities promised just sounded too enticing to pass up, but that’s just what they were, promises, nothing more. These unfulfilled promises are what ultimately led me to decline ICLA.
When drafting my four-year plan as a freshman student, in big bold letters read “JUNIOR YEAR: LA.” That was always the plan. Although when I began my process of finalizing my decision on whether to go, two shocking realities came to light. Those being the lack of classes offered and the inability to promise an internship once out there. For those two reasons, I was not able to financially justify the cost of living and studying in LA during my college career.
Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the college experiencing lower and lower enrollment each year, the college has had to make serious cuts at the expense of several academic programs and classes. These cuts didn’t just occur at the main campus, but also impacted the college’s satellite campuses, including ICLA. As an integrated marketing communications (IMC) major one of the classes that I intended to take was Writing for PR. This directly impacts IMC students as Writing for PR was always meant to be taken in LA. I initially thought it was only the strategic communications department that was impacted but that is not the case. Prior to the cuts, 17 courses were offered across the four communication departments. Now, there are only six classes that remain. To clarify, I am not blaming the LA program director for the lack of classes, I am more so upset with the overall lack of transparency from the LA program and the college as a whole. When viewing the LA Program course offerings website, these courses are still being advertised as active. This seems deceptive to me. Students are required to commit to attending the program well before any information of the lack of courses is communicated.
Another reason why I had to forgo the ICLA program was due to the lack of internship security. One of the big appeals of going to LA is the semester-long internship you partake in while there. Sounds great! The program even advertises that staff will help students with securing an internship and work with you during the process. Although, when speaking with students currently in the program, they said that could not be further from the truth: “Ithaca did very minimally in really helping me” and “I didn’t get it until the 2nd of February, which is well after the required move-in.” Basically, students are asked to pack up their lives and move across the country, sometimes without knowing where their internship will be and when it will start.
While internships are not guaranteed upon arrival, there is still very little help provided to students to secure an internship even while there and packing up your life and moving across the country without solidified work can be daunting for anyone — I wish the program did a better job at advertising that upfront.
The LA program is an amazing opportunity for students to gain professional experience and completely immerse themselves in their desired field. While I wish I could go, I was unable to justify the cost of LA with all the uncertainties the program left unanswered. I hope those interested in the LA program reading this can use my experience as a cautionary tale to help them decide if studying away is worth the risk.
Correction: A previous version of this commentary stated that students are not always guaranteed an internship at the Ithaca College Los Angeles Program. Students are guaranteed internships, but they are not guaranteed upon arrival in Los Angeles.