Misled by Higher Ed: Student Loan Stories

The Biden Administration is selectively promoting Borrower Defense to Repayment (“BDR”) loan forgiveness at career colleges and continues to look the other way as traditional schools advertise 98% placement rates that often include volunteer work. 

Read these student loan stories to see why loan forgiveness can’t just look the other way.
CASE believes that the federal government should apply BDR equally across all types of colleges.

I share my experience as an adult learner pursuing higher education to ensure policymakers and regulators understand just how many flaws are in the system, especially for non-traditional students like me.

We are normally on our own earning a wage because we need to live, have bills to pay, and in some cases children to feed. We don’t have parents to depend on. So, the big surprise at the end of our studies that says we must quit our jobs and work three months or more for free is unrealistic.

I originally sought to pursue a higher education degree to fulfill the dream of being the first in my family to graduate from college. I also had high hopes of pursuing a career that will help me move beyond my lower paying jobs in agriculture. At various intervals spanning 2006-2007, I enrolled in programs at the University of Phoenix, Western Governors University and Linfield College.

Through my experience, I feel I did not receive the instruction and practical experience needed to make gain employment in the related field. At Western Governors University, I was able to complete most assignments without doing the required reading. Mostly, the topic I was assigned was easily researched online. While I earned my degree from Linfield College (now University), I found that without an internship/practicum experience, I could not to break into the field my desired field. I wanted to work in. 

After trying to earn a degree to achieve my life goals at three different schools, I now only believe I wasted a lot of time and money on promises that turned out not to be true. At 61 years old, I am forced to say, despite my dedicated efforts and investment, I never got a foothold into a job within my area of study and am at this point looking toward retirement.

Students deserve better from these schools.

Lori N. – Western Governors University

I submit my personal story with the hopes that it will get the attention of policymakers who may not be as familiar with the experiences of those of us who took a less-traditional education and help them protect honest and hardworking students like me.

I enrolled in Baker College from 2013-2015 to complete a bachelor’s degree, with a primary focus on language courses. Through my experience there I was shocked at the academic dishonesty that occurred. When I was tutoring in English and Spanish, students were upset when I informed them I wasn’t going to write their papers for them.  When I reported this, the program director said that we needed to do whatever it took to keep students happy. When I then withdrew from the tutoring program as a result, she was furious, saying that they would lose funding if it wasn’t completed.  At no point was anyone concerned with student success.  On two other occasions I reported instances of academic dishonesty and they were simply ignored.

Angry and frustrated, I enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University where I found my education experience not that much better. There were rampant examples students plagiarizing. In a fiction writing class, one student used the premise of a popular movie to write their story, and another used the tortoise and the hare as their story. I even suspect one teacher to have been a bot because I would email them and the reply would come back nearly instantly with information like an FAQ and the address in their profile was to a strip mall in Florida.  

All of these disruptions put me years behind in my coursework with student loans still owed. I am still $60,000 in debt from student loans and I could have had the $72,000 a year job I hold now without needing more than a high school diploma.

I know my story is just one of many. Schools should not be allowed to mislead and fail students like this.  There is too much money and individual hope for a brighter future at stake.

Chris H. – Baker College

My name is Rick and I am from Georgia. I submit this written testimony to as related to the recent  proposed rulemaking sessions in order to highlight a need for greater accountability for universities and other higher education institutions.  While I don’t know much about this rulemaking process, I do know I deserved better from a school I trusted.

I have a passion for learning. I got my bachelors in electronics and decided to explore programming courses. As a result, I enrolled at Southern New Hampshire Online in order to fulfill my educational aspirations and started to take programing courses. My goal was to learn how to architecturally design and build programs. However, as I took more courses, I realized that this program was not giving me everything that I needed. Rather, the coursework was outdated as well as focused on project management as opposed to programing and design.

I was frustrated and felt misled from what SNHU had to offer. By that time, I realized it was too late as I was halfway through the coursework and had to complete the degree. Since graduating in 2019, I am still passionate about programming and still wanted to learn. In fact, I am learning on my own through coursework and other books.

I felt misled by SNHU because it did not offer the programs I signed up for. Yet, I had to complete the program even though it was not what I wanted but was a number of courses in and did not want to restart after how much time and effort in. Given that it was an online program, it was hard to communicate those issues with SNHU and they should have been accountable to the programs they said they offer.

I know that I am not alone. I know many others experienced this deceit from SNHU and other online and regular schools as well. Recently, I read College Loan Fairness’ report on the Borrower’s Defense Rule. I was shocked to learn how many other students who had similar experiences being let down by their schools but had also never heard of Borrow to Defense Repayment (BDR). It seems to me there should be a greater focus on make sure all types of students aware of their options and to hold their schools accountable. Therefore, I ask that the Department of Education to create more accountability standards for all schools that utilize online teaching programs. It would help keep colleges and universities accountable and maintain opportunities for students to pursue programs based on their interests, needs, and future goals.

Rick H. – Southern New Hampshire University

My three-year experience at Southern New Hampshire University was a disappointing waste of money and time. I started my career in health care and decided to pursued a degree in hospital administration with a concentration in quality and patient safety so I could advance my career with a long-term goal or running a nursing home or other care facility.

Right before graduation I was shocked to learn that I needed to take a state test in order to be a hospital administrator. In order to even be eligible to take the test, I learned I needed internship experience. However, the school had previously guaranteed me that I would not need an internship. Now, I am only eligible for the same level of positions as I was before I invested my money and three years at SNHU, and very few of my credits could transfer into something useful.

I shared my disappointment with school officials but nothing has been done to help my circumstances.  As a result, I have had to switch my career goals completely.  It is hard to describe how it feels to be so betrayed by a school you trusted to support and guide your efforts and hopes to change your life for the better. That is why I want others to hear my story; so other students can be aware of the way schools can treat them and so lawmakers in a position to change things will know what is happening to honest, hardworking students.

A degree is not something that can be returned for a replacement, but it is an expensive product being marketed to students. Schools need to be held accountable for the quality of education they are providing students, and the promises they make.

When I initially attended Southern New Hampshire University, the thrill of starting something new was exciting to me. Having the flexibility to complete courses online was convenient. But, I realized later what I was promised became an illusion.

When I signed up for Creative Writing with a concentration in Screenwriting, I was told we would get an opportunity to be taught by professional screenwriters within the industry. That was far from the truth.

I carefully studied each professor profile to see if their backgrounds were grounded in writing movies or TV shows and learned they are not. They may have been knowledgeable about the industry, but they were reading from a book, which I could have done for free at the library and online.

Furthermore, the SNHU career department is not trained to help students enter the screenwriting field. Instead, their career counselors are trained to help people to work for someone else. My entrepreneurial mindset was expecting better but by the time I realized this, I was too far along to quit.

Now, I have this $60K + tuition and a diploma that doesn’t even match what I signed up for.  While I signed up for Creative Writing with a concentration in Screenwriting, my actual diploma says: Creative Writing/English. Somewhere down the line they changed the course from what it said online to lure in students like me. I feel misled by my school that promised an education and access to the world of screenwriting and instead I got false and misleading promises from a school I invested in, counted on and trusted. This is not right and something must be done at the highest levels to hold schools, and the expensive offerings they promise, accountable to students.

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