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University of North Dakota (UND) Aerospace Program Troubles

I wrote a lot about my personal experience at University of North Dakota Aviation at the homepage and there are more troubles about attending this school that I need to write about. The costs of UND aerospace are horrendous to begin with but the actual environment available for students is just as bad, so I would like to talk about a few common warnings and red flags that other students besides myself have had issues with. The worst possible situation to have when attending such a high-cost aviation school is having numerous factors out of your own control to deal with.

Weather costs at UND Aerospace school of flight training

I am certain that if you are a new prospective student or someone thinking about attending flight school at UND, you have viewed a few forums and review sites like this one in order to get as much information about the school before plopping down an average of $200,000+ to cover the costs of aviation along with University courses and expenses, especially if you are out of state. All of these forums, including current students and alumni, will tell you that the weather is terrible here. As I have witnessed, temperatures regularly drop to -20 and -40 degrees F. That is with a minus. This doesn't include the windchill factor which can easily drop to -60, -80 and even -120 during record cold winters. The land is so flat in Grand Forks and around the airport so this causes winds to travel and accelerate over great distances. In turn, this is why it is so windy constantly in this area of the country. In fact, University of North Dakota is in an area that receives some of the coldest temperatures in the country.

Asking a few questions you might have about UND aerospace

So you must be asking yourself: "why would I go to this aerospace school?" One of the first things that comes to mind is you'll think of something along the lines of: "Well, this is a long term career choice, I can handle a little bit of cold weather, put in the hard work in order to attend an elite aviation school". If you do not know much about aviation, be careful about this assumption because it will turn out to be one of the most important factors that will decide how much money, time and even how successful you are at passing courses.

Have to get up at 5am every morning to fly in good weather at UND

It turns out that the weather frequently grounds the airplanes in the winter and no one is allowed to train because of malfunctions that might occur in the aircraft. That's in addition to sometimes having to get up at 5am-6am when it is still dark out (and less windy at this time), getting out to the Grand Forks airport and aerospace center at 7am and standing out in the cold doing pre-flight checklists for 45 minutes and then freezing in an airplane for 2 or 3 hours at a time. Besides the cold, the wind can be more dangerous and can cancel flights far more often because it regularly picks up to over 40 knots (about 45mph). This is not ideal when you are first trying to learn how to fly, especially when you have blowing snow and visibility problems. Typically, they will cancel flight training with much lesser wind speed and cold severity. You will be looking at nearly half of your flying days at UND being canceled before you even step into the airplane. Who wants to get up at 5am every morning when the wind is calmer in order to get flying time before the weather gets bad? You might also be thinking this as well: "If I go flying in bad weather, I will be hardened with the experience of flying in bad weather". The truth of the matter is this: They won't let you go flying when the weather is bad. All the bad weather does in North Dakota is cancel your flights and wastes your money.

Canceled aerospace training at university of north dakota due to constant bad weather

Well, everyone likes canceled classes but not when you are dropping $30,000 on the line each semester for flight training costs and time that always gets canceled. I will go through an example of one of the larger courses for Private Pilot training, which is the first major training course for freshman. Obviously the indoor lecture courses are simple (if you study hard like me) and the FAA written exam is simple. The UND flight training lab is part of this 5-credit course and you must pass this lab in order to pass the course. The rules at University of North Dakota aerospace state that students must complete the lab within two semesters or else you get an F in a 5-credit course and must re-take the course over again. That might seem like plenty of time, but it truly isn't surprising to know that almost all students cannot complete the flight training in a single semester and must finish it up during the second semester. The reason behind this situation is the severe weather canceling all the flights and not enough time to train all the students on the good days when the weather clears up. At the same time, you have to deal with the terrible UND financial aid and flight costs office with their incompetent and rude staff, computer glitches and money not going into your flight costs account along with loans and grant money not being processed properly and students getting left with nothing for a whole semester (like myself).

Private Pilot training at UND aviation - John D. Odegard school

So what happens when you have to wait an extra semester to finish your flight training? Well for me, there wasn't enough room for me to begin aerospace training during my first fall semester of college so the bumped me into the spring semester where I had to start in the dead of winter in January. Obviously, I could not finish it like most of the students in the class and was only able to successfully complete my first solo pilot flight around the UND Grand Forks airport in the spring when the weather was finally warming up. So I was told I was about half-way done with training and I would have to continue again the following fall semester in August. If you think about it, most people will go home for summer break, forget most of the stuff they learned and get rusty, then have to go back during the fall and re-learn most of it again. So when I got back to UND aerospace in the fall to finish the flight training, I had to wait for my grant and loan money to come in before I could pay for flight time. Because of the incompetent financial aid office, my money wasn't getting into the flight accounts or anywhere for that matter for the enter semester. This is even after me coming in every day and being told to "wait a few more days and see if the money is in the account".

Costs of Aerospace training, failures and delays in flying school

So in the end, it didn't matter whether I remember the flying skills or not. I ended up with a huge F in the course because of that and was already about $70,000 in debt due to out-of-state costs for General Ed, tuition, room and board, the expensive UND aerospace laptop that aviation students need, books and flight costs. That is $70,000 for just 3 semesters and all I got out of it was a handful of general education credits to be transferred. Unfortunately, there are no 4-year aviation schools in my state, but I could have easily gotten those general ed credits for a reasonable $10,000 at an in-state university. Now my debt has ballooned up to about $87,000 due to interest.

Finding the Best flight and pilot schools elsewhere

Sadly, I am not the only one in this situation. Not surprisingly, other students had the same financial aid office garbage and weather problems that caused them to delay their overall program in order to complete flight training for the previous semester (which tacks on another $20k or $30 per additional semester). You might be asking: "Why would I want to go to this school?" You are exactly right in asking this. Why go to a school which is widely known to have the worst pilot training environments and most flight cancelations when you could go to University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale where the weather is a heck of a lot nicer and winters are shorter? Carbondale has some of the best ratings and is one of the best flight schools in the country. They have a higher success rate, they are near Chicago where many of the big aerospace companies are, so why go to aerospace at university of north dakota all the way up in Grand Forks? UND prides themselves as being "Harvard of Aviation", but that is themselves saying that without anyone else's opinion. Essentially a huge marketing scam.

UND Flight Instructors and competing for flight training time

So you have the cold and the weather but that isn't the only thing interfering with flight time. Since Grand Forks, North Dakota is at the top of the country and at a higher latitude, it has less daylight and longer winters. If you are starting out your flight training at UND, this means you cannot go flying at night. So there are fewer hours and less time in the day to go flying. The place is also packed with many new students so you have even less chances of going flying and you have to almost compete with them when there is a break in the bad weather. You have to wonder about those flight instructors themselves who are basically just older college students further along with their education, how are they going to make much money with all the cancelled flights? Who wants to become a flight instructor at UND with all the weather problems and cancellations? No one wins at UND except the Administration and professors who take in big money from all the students whether they are successful or not.

Rude Elitist Aerospace Professors and UND Faculty

As an example of how rude and insulting some of these professors are, I will tell you an experience I had with Tom Zeidlik, one of the assistant professors at the time of my attendance (Luckily I only had him for a single day). Our regular professor did not show up to teach the class.... So Zeidlik was basically a substitute teacher. Before I went to AVIT 102 for intro to private pilot class, I had a mathematics exam in another course and had to walk literally about a half mile in the sub-freezing temperatures to the building because the John D. Odegard building, where the aviation courses are held, is so far away from the main campus buildings. All of that walking is pretty routine and it takes 10 or 15 minutes just go from the main campus building to Odegard hall. So, this doesn't seem like a big deal right? Almost every student has stayed late to finish tests and end up being a few minutes late for the next class and it's not a big deal.... unless Tom Zeidlik is your professor.

So I come in 10 minutes late, freezing cold and walk across the room to my usual spot. Then Zeidlik feels the need to call me out and start yelling because I walked across the room to my chair. It turns out that I walked in with a few other people who were also late, but this rude professor decides to single me out and cause an unnecessary class disruption. Bad move because now I'm calling him out on this site. So this guy is so stuck up and thinks he's such an elitist, as if he's too good for some Aviation 102 student to quickly, silently and respectfully walk past and sit in a chair with minimal disruptions after walking in late after an exam. Just to add to the insult, he cracks a few insulting class-wide jokes directed at me while I'm setting out my notes and materials. Then I look up and some students are frowning at me, shaking their heads in disgust or in disappointment (not really any of their business why I was late), which only aroused anger in me. Other students behind me were throwing SPITBALLS in my hair and on my coat throughout the hour, all after just getting called out and yelled at by a professor. It almost sounds like a made-up story, especially since no one I know throws spitballs in college (although this was a freshman level UND class of course). Just to be clear, I didn't know anyone in the room, so it wasn't just some friendly "jabs" by my friends or jokes that I "took the wrong way", but a lot of disrespect. The snippy "high strung" assistant UND aerospace professor clearly was upset and spoke lewd statements rather than the typical casual jokes about being late.

The joke is on him though. This guy seems to think he's way better than anyone and that his standards are so grand and high that no one can dare walk across the room to their chair when they walk in late from an exam. Well take a look at Tom Zeidlik's professor ratings. (side note on the ratings: It is touching that someone else was talking about me on the 11/22/04 comment about Zeidlik belittles student and doesn't do anything to help the learning environment. I did not see the comment until this writing a few years later.) The truth is, he basically has a plain half-ass record, with a lot of other comments about arrogance, incompetence and bad humor. No other professor or teacher has EVER yelled and called me out because I came in late from taking a test or late for ANY OTHER reason for that matter. I have never SEEN a professor or teacher start an outburst over something so lame. This guy with his inflated ego seems to think he is a big shot and is "holier than thou". When you get back to reality, he is just a half-ass shmuck with a bad attitude and has a mediocre performance in his career of teaching. So why would anyone want to deal with rude UND professors like this? After all, you are a client paying his salary and in return, you get disrespected, insulted and deal with professors with bad attitudes. Not only is the teaching and learning environment crap, but why on earth would you want to be taught by professors who do a half-ass job in teaching? You are just throwing your money away and getting insulted at the same time at UND aerospace.

College life, partying and drinking at University of North Dakota Grand Forks

So how is college life like at UND aerospace? Well for one thing, no one wants to do anything when it is -30 degrees outside every night. It turns out that Grand Forks was one of the highest ranking binge drinking cities in the country. This is not really the type of drinking you would see in a party town like Madison, WI, it is more like musty old truck stops and quite bars filled with locals (and truck drivers out in the middle of North Dakota). It literally has one of the longest, coldest and darkest winters in the United States. Many people are just unfriendly, high-strung, anti-social, crabby and disrespectful, including many of the professors that live there full-time. This isn't surprising given the long dark and cold winters. There is also a common medical and mental condition that occurs in dark cold climates and it is called SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. View the link to read about it at Wikipedia, basically it's a type of depression that occurs due to long dark winters and it's not pleasant. With all the student pilots that committed suicide and flown airplanes into the ground, SAD probably had something to do with it as these were not normal aircraft accidents. Again, why would you go to the UND aerospace program and flight training school when you can go to a much nicer school at Carbondale or Spartan? Are you planning on going to UND because of their appealing marketing "hype" that was fabricated by themselves? Why even take the risk of going to a school that obviously has poor pilot training weather when you can get the same education elsewhere with better weather, better business contacts, not getting so much flight time canceled and the same financial aid problems that have only gotten worse according to reviews over the years since I've been there.

UND "Best" Aviation School: More Information and Experiences