Okay, so I received yet another clueless email from a department at Ashford as though everything about me and my experience with them has been so super excellent that I’d be excited to talk to their new career services personnel.
I sent my usual snippy email back (well, usual of late because every time I receive an email from them I get all stressed out just seeing the from).
She replied back that she tried to investigate what was holding my degree up and the situation behind my experience but could not find it on file. She sounded so nice and honest that I poured out a huge amount of stress and pent up frustration with her employer in response (along with my account ID and name I attended under as requested. I figured, since the whole messed up story is on my copy board right now (just in case the email failed to go through), I may as well paste it here to give you the full story I said I might one day.
Believe it or not, as rambly as this is, it’s the short version. If you can follow it, bless you. I didn’t put much effort into revising, rewriting, or really editing it at all because I’m about 95% sure the new nice lady is going to look at the length, go WTFTDLRness??? And not even read it all anyway, forward it on, maybe even to the president like I asked near the end, but still it won’t get read, or if it is, it won’t be given any serious thought and will be filtered through a “Yeah, whatever” lens or something. I don’t know. Here it is:
I doubt it will do any more good than the 6 months I spent in grievance and then grievance appeal to only be told, our fault, but pay us anyway, but the ID was ********* I think. The name I attended under is ***************. As with previous messages i sent other offices, I want everything in writing, so only communicate with me via email. I got tired really fast of people telling me I couldn’t prove things said to me over the phone (even when that wasn’t the point of why these charges Ashford incurred by misfiling my MPN should be dropped and my transcripts released and my diploma handed out).
Also, by you in my messages I’m referring generally to Ashford, not you personally. This college is at the root of all my financial distress, their misfiled paperwork and inept grievance process, empty promises, only to find out 2 months later (because i called and not the other way around) that yet another person is no longer working for Ashford that seemed to be supportive of me and ack, I’m so tired of this story I want to pull my hair out. If I didn’t have a family to upset by it I would have just committed suicide already so I wouldn’t have to keep paying the government back $20k+ for a degree I earned but never got because a school decided that the extra $1500+ charges incurred by their admitted (I have it in writing) misfiling of my MPN caused it to miss being added to my loans where it would have easily disappeared and only subject to one bad credit report should I fail to be able to pay. Instead Ashford wants/wanted it due immediately, wanted me to make arrangements and make first payments before they’d even release 1 unofficial transcript. They didn’t care that I was still on unemployment deferment for my loans, I was supposed to pull that $1500 out of somewhere I don’t have and still don’t have to pay for their mistake separate from my loans which would require I have a job and not just my husband but I can’t get a job because no one wants to hire me after I compulsively tell them the truth about my education and this mess. Honestly, I can’t blame them. So many people need jobs right now, even in the restaurant business, why hire the girl who claims to have the equivalent of a BA but is still tied up in legal paperwork 2 years later and can’t prove it. She’s a risk. There are plenty of other people who also look good on paper and in person that don’t have that risk staring them in the face. My degree has been held hostage this entire time, I went from being an A+ student in good standing with nice letters from the Dean to becoming a delinquent and being treated like crap, being in grievance and grievance appeal 3 times longer than the guide says it takes, stressed out to my wits’ end, my faith in higher education, for and not for profit alike completely torn to shreds, and meanwhile none of Ashford’s offices appear able to communicate with each other about anything I say. During that entire grievance I kept getting Final notices on my bill and threats to get sent to a collection agency among other things.
Such a nice fantasy for me to be able to get a job with this shadow looming on my head to pay a cost Ashford incurred on themselves in the first place. Nobody was willing to talk to me about it when I was being civil save ONE person and I was told 2 months later on about the fifth contact attempt that she was no longer working there. At the very least, I should be given my diploma, my official transcripts released, and you can clear the balance owed, NO bad credit marks (it’s not fair, my loans would have only allowed one, Ashford shouldn’t be allowed a second due to their own mistake) from you guys or a debt collector you sold to (they will be contested all the same), and you just have good faith that should I have the money one day I will finally decide I’ve forgiven Ashford for the educational nightmare Ashford’s put me through and pay for that last class, $5/mo at a time. My original grievance wasn’t even fully considered. I stated in it that the guy who advised me to fill out a grievance in the first place said that Ashford would PROBABLY clear the amount owed if I was right about the cause being my misfiled MPN and that they’re “Usually pretty good about that sort of thing” and so I should state that as the resolution I was seeking. I even admitted he warned me they might not, then he said the line of how they’re usually good about that sort of thing. He said absolutely nothing regarding instructions (nor did anyone else) to say WHY I felt that resolution was fair, only asked me to officially state what resolution I sought.
The reply I got together with the “oh, our bad” letter, was to state that my resolution was denied purely on the grounds that I failed to provide proof (I was never asked for, despite insisting several times that I be kept in the loop and called should they need anything at all to help their decision along) Mr. P***** said the remaining balance would be cleared. That is the worst excuse for why not in the history of why not excuses, particularly given everything else. I was sent to other departments within ashford and assured they were third parties, yet they are employees of Ashford, said so in their emails and letters. You cannot be a neutral 3rd party to Ashford and be employed by them at the same time any more than you would accept testimony from my husband about the state of mind this has put me in.
TWO YEARS LATER I still end up with insomniac attacks when I’m reminded of this, too stressed out and keyed up to be able to sleep. I go to lay down and think of all the peaceful thoughts under the sun but as soon as I begin to relax for drifting off to sleep, my concentration on those peaceful thoughts lapses enough that I return to circular stressed out thoughts about how I’ve put my family under this mountain of debt I thought was going to make our lives better and for absolutely nothing but a life lesson in being jaded about higher education, not even a slip of paper research has lately been telling me is rather worthless at all the good places of employment. Still, at least I’d have that piece of paper, at least I wouldn’t have to answer questions about my higher education or why they can’t see my transcripts or diploma or go into this nightmare in an interview or feel like I’m forced to lie otherwise about my education, which is asked on every application and interview thus far, whether it’s for helping out at a therapist’s office or flipping burgers at mcdonalds or greeting people at walmart at the door (which tends to go to the elderly anyway but I digress).
I’m part of a group lawsuit with the shareholders foundation, but god only knows when or if anything will ever come of that, either way it likely won’t be for several years yet, meanwhile I have six months left of deferment, no way to continue my education at the local college because you’re holding my transcripts and NO I will not choose to go back to school with you guys unless you actually paid me to (and paid me enough money to get rid of all this debt) so don’t even bother offering. I still am not employed, and now [clipped for confidential reasons involving a third party] not to mention the multiple health problems and bills I’ve personally incurred since all this happened, including some major vitamin and mineral deficiencies. I haven’t reported you to the BBB yet, though I should, because I’ve researched that angle too and observed that for all the work I’ll put into that letter all you guys have to say is “We’ve addressed and found this student uncooperative” and you get to keep your A+
I don’t even know why I’m writing all this out now. You (you personal now) seemed nice in your reply back. Honest. I latched onto that with some wild fevered hope, I guess. Maybe I was just over-looked by this super busy school before. Maybe I didn’t have the right ears? Maybe someone gives a damn about a former A+ student who’s never been treated so poorly in all her life, let alone by the school that gave her those A+’s and dean’s letters and what not (I even provided free tutoring off the books for several of my classmates, your students, while attending). Maybe they’re making positive changes two years later? After all, their review to stay certified is coming up in only 2 years. Maybe now they’re trying to care more about the people behind those fat paychecks and less about weaseling $1500+ out of a working class family living paycheck to paycheck unable to move up and looking at looming debt that they still have no idea how they’re going to handle when the last 6 months of unemployment deferment runs out and I STILL likely won’t have a job because, even when these places are willing to consider my hours requests ( so I don’t have to dish out all my earnings to a baby sitter just to be in the same boat but with someone else raising my kid) they always balk and get these completely easy to interpret looks when I start answering their questions about my education. And if the looks aren’t easy to interpret, the lack of call backs definitely have been.
I was trying to make it as a freelance writer. I was doing rather well, writing over 50k on my novels a month. Then all this started and steadily grew worse. It got to the point that I couldn’t sit at my computer without feeling a looming anxiety attack about my need to make money for all this debt, it pressured and still destroys my writing, my love for my writing (and it’s important to love what you’re writing, ’cause if you don’t, no one else will), then the health problems hit, mostly from the insomnia that started, the extreme stress provided by this debt and Ashford’s miserliness and refusal to stick to it’s own Mission statement regarding accountability in the face of their admitted mistakes, and now most days I’m lucky to have the energy to get out of bed, though since I’ve been dishing out way more than we can afford in copays to doctors, it’s gotten better. I was found, at the very least, to have a long standing deficiency in vitamin D and b12 in addition to too much stress and not enough sleep.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to go postal on somebody, I don’t believe violence is the answer, but I can tell you, without a doubt, that I am self destructing here thanks to this trouble with Ashford and the massive debt they’ve caused me with absolutely no reward to point to, nor keep any logical hiring manager from avoiding me when so many other non-potential-problem employees applied to flip burgers too. I don’t even intend to self destruct, this whole affair is driving me so crazy with no end in site that I just can’t help being kept up some nights by it, particularly when yet another department at Ashford sends me a “we have no clue, still, obviously” email about how wonderful they are and wonderful my opportunities in the future are with them and how wonderful services that I can still use are.
Last I heard I was being sent to a collection agency despite informing them that I was seeking legal counsel. A collection agency called me and I told them the exact same thing. I told them they collected a dirty debt I was seeking to challenge in court, and informed Ashford of such and that I would not be paying the debt and will be challenging it with all the legal power I can muster when/should it ever find its way onto my credit report in any form.
Due to all the other problems in my life right now, particularly financially, that legal help has been rather slow in coming. I’ve been able to piggy back on a group suit. To be honest, I don’t even really want all my money refunded, or enough rewarded that I can pay off my debt. It would be nice, I won’t lie. After all this nightmare has put me through, it would be heaven to just have that debt wiped off and forget this all happened, I’d even let the bad mark from your $1500+ go unchallenged on my credit report until it fades into obscurity. At this point, what I want is my degree. I’m never going to get $20k+ to pay back my loans out of thin air. I want this trumped up charge incurred by Ashford’s own sloppy paperwork filing and inter-office communication (or severe lack thereof) to go away, no money owed, no collection agency out there with my name trying to collect any part of that debt, and the degree I worked for just to have to enter indentured servitude to pay back in my hands, and my transcripts freed like none of Ashford’s mess ever happened. I want what I’ve payed over $20k for, my health for, my family’s financial wellbeing for, my sense of sanity for, in my hands with Ashford picking up the bill from the collection agency they sent me to and clearing my name. Yeah, I’m a dreamer, I guess. Silly me, expecting a for-profit university to go back and do what’s right after they have all the legal cards in their hands. Silly me.
If you can’t make any of this happen without trying to weasel more money out of me, or more loans from the government on my behalf, then thank you for providing at least one correspondence that sounded like an honest attempt to make things right, but the best thing you can do for me if Ashford cannot finally make good on this grievous error is to make sure all of your offices just leave me alone for good. I don’t want to get a call from or see an email from you ever again. Every time I do, I invariably end up right back in that place of severe stress and anxiety that I’ve been seeking to avoid while I can’t do anything about it. By now, I figure, if I could only afford a good enough lawyer to tackle such a big company, Ashford likely not only owes me a cleared slate, but thousands of dollars worth of medical bills as a direct result of the stress this mess has put me through, thousands of dollars worth of potential story sales, thousands of dollars worth of missed wages from even the lowliest form of work at minimum wage I’m missing because I get to the educational history point and flunk all the tests thanks to this outstanding problem. I’m at my wits end. Thank god for my family and friends. If I had none, you wouldn’t have a living person any more to send these emails to. I know full well that my family would rather have me alive and have to help me pay back my loans for a degree I never received (probably for the rest of my life as I work fast food rather than helping people like I went back to school for) than dead by selfish, but debt-freeing means. But all the same, this stress is killing me as well, literally, do the research on it, I did. Despite what all the research I’ve been doing on Ashford says about it being a diploma mill, I know I got a quality education. I also know it is because I took my education seriously, it had nothing to do with the teachers, nor the assigned books in some cases, in a few cases both the “teachers” and “books” were absolute crap (okay, the book only in one case, which I gave extensive feedback on), it was because I put more time into what we were supposed to be learning on outside resources than I needed to. So yes, I’ve done the research. I know this stress, the longer it continues, the more it shortens my life by years, the major health symptoms are already here, in both me and my husband who’s working hard just to remain afloat and not having ramen for dinner more than once a week. I may not be willing to commit suicide, but I am not exaggerating when I say this situation has been contributing in a major way to my eventual death all the same.
All over a measely $1500+ that Ashford, part of a multi-billion dollar and growing industry, could afford to swallow without batting an eyelash, and should given that it was incurred separately from my more reasonably regulated loans due to an error resting entirely with Ashford by its own admittance. My grievance appeal didn’t even get a letter back from the president addressing my points. Instead, I got a call from the cashier to collect. I didn’t even get a we regret to inform you we denied you letter. I pointed this out to the cashier, she said she looked into it for me and found that the decision was back and refused, so I needed to make payment arrangements immediately. I STILL haven’t gotten an official response to my grievance appeal.
At this point I wish the entire Bridgepoint operations would sink into the see never to return again for all the undue pain they’ve caused my family and I over the last few years. I’d wish that except I know I don’t, it would leave too many innocent people out of jobs and even so, the building would have to be empty because I don’t actually wish any people dead, the very thought makes me feel ill. I just feel it is inherently wrong that a company that can do these things to a person (and I know now I am not the only one) and her family should not only still be standing, but thrive and continue to grow. It makes me seriously ill and further erodes my faith in anything that makes money doing things that should be noble, that they claim are noble (such as Ashford providing education to those that cannot afford it, or who might be denied elsewhere because they come from backgrounds of poverty, such as myself), it erodes that faith so badly that I can’t see as how not-for-profit colleges are any better. I experience extreme cognitive dissonance now every time I start to talk to my son about higher education and the value of education. This experience has embittered and jaded me that thoroughly.
In short (please read the whole thing, please), whatever REAL help you can lend me would be greatly appreciated. If, however, Ashford forces you to “do your job” by once again shoving me away and telling me to pay up or shut up, or that I left delinquent and will therefore never get my degree, or have to do X before I can, or put up any more hoops rather than own up to their mistakes with me, then the biggest favour you can do me is to make sure ALL of my contact information is irradicated from EVERY branch of your business so that I can at least avoid renewed anxiety attacks about the impending doom of loan debt and still no job when I can’t do anything about it but am forced to think about it anyway because yet another department of Ashford has reared it’s absolutely clueless head (which I don’t blame you for being clueless, I’ve come to accept that on a scale of 1 to 10, interdepartmental communication at Ashford is a negative 3 ).
Maybe, just maybe you can get this to the new president so that she might see fit to actually give me a direct reply this time. The way it was handled before, when I was (and a part of me is still, provided I can be guaranteed I won’t get stonewalled and be dealt with and listened to logically) civil, and trying to be pleasant, despite my stress and worry, extending frequently my willingness to be actively involved in the investigation and help any way I could, to be available for any call, was absolutely cowardly. So cowardly that, even two years later I am absolutely shocked that an institution of higher learning could treat an exemplar student in this manner. Not even the decency of a thought out response to the appeal I spent several days writing and rewriting and even more time researching, just in case, while waiting for the original decision. I did seek some legal counsel, but no one I could sue with (I don’t actually want to sue, that’s so frustrating! I want Ashford to renew my faith but making good on their mistakes, even while I feel, at this point, renewing my faith is nigh impossible, the best I can probably give is bygones be bygones and to stop advising everyone I encounter to avoid Ashford like the plague). My appeal was the result of that counsel. I was told that they were trying to sweep me under the rug and that I needed to make it clear in my appeal, this time, exactly why my balance should be cleared and that I intended to pursue what’s fair in a legal manner should that solution not be chosen. Wording the letter like that made me very uncomfortable, but I tried being nice once already, I didn’t even have to try, I was that naive that Ashford would do right by me. They also told me they’d write up an official letter from their office regarding the matter so that Ashford would know I wasn’t making empty threats. I never got that letter. The group suit is still up in the air and my research tells me it could be that way for many years to come.
I should stop writing you a book about this, I know. I suspect my words will not be read in entirety, nor as closely as they should be. They may even be dismissed as overly dramatic. I wish they were, you have no idea how much I wish I were making this all up and what it has done to me. Truth be told, I’ve been procrastinating on seeking help from a lawyer who would take this case for free and take a percent of the winnings. Legal counsel told me I could quite easily find someone with a case like this. I realize now, in writing this one last plea, that I haven’t actively looked very hard because I don’t want it to end like that. I don’t want millions or thousands of dollars worth of damages out of you. I don’t want it to come to that, I really don’t. I’m not even sure if it still can, I may have waited too long. Either way, to get justice for my case that route will completely invalidate everything Ashford ever stood for with me, it will destroy the last of my faith. It will be the death knell for my belief that my university’s mission statement means anything at all. It will be the final proof that I was just a number, and they wanted so much to avoid accountability for their own mistakes, understandable or not, that they were willing to fight tooth and nail for a measely (to them) $1500+ charge that they went against everything they preached in their mission statement to us. Such legal action will prove, undeniably, that I built my educational faith and commitment on a pack of pretty lies from a diploma mill. Regardless of how much I value the education I got from some of the books, but mostly the studies I read, only a diploma mill espouses a mission statement it exempts itself from. I gave money to the wolf in sheep’s clothing and in the end they valued $1500 (it’s more than $1500 but less than $1700 if memory serves) of the $20k+ they got in loans from me alone, more than they valued a Dean’s list alumna and their own mission statement. Really, it’s that last that makes me ill to think about. So, I still foolishly cling to the hope that I’m wrong.
Am I wrong?
PS after all that, I should note, though I said if I were alone and without friends and family I might have committed suicide by now to avoid all this impending debt and messed up experience, I highly doubt I would anyway. I think I might be too optimistic to do more than think about it. No one has to worry about me regarding that anyway, my will to survive, thanks to all my wonderful family and friends, is strong. I am a fighter with an insanely stubborn and instinctual will to live. Still, this has been that bad for me that a fighter like myself has caught herself thinking maybe…if I had no friends or family, could I be one of those suicidal people? To be completely honest, right after, I reject the notion and say, “Nah, I’d just go teach English in Thailand or Korea, or something, show up randomly at an Indian reservation to help out, fall off the map in some other way to do something else that consideration for friends and family has ever stopped me from seriously considering. At the worst I’d go on a thrill-seeking adventure in the wilds somewhere.”