The following is a transcript of my interview with "Bernard." I spoke to Bernard a few weeks back at a local education center where he was pursuing a general equivalency diploma ("GED"). Bernard has now earned his GED. Bernard's story shows how difficult it can be for
some students to accurately gauge the authenticity of an online degree program. As well, it points out how hard it can be to distinguish between different accreditation organizations.
For more background, you can read the first part of this story in yesterday's Bank Talk.
Bernard thought that he would spend at least a few months pursuing his coursework towards a high school degree. He paid several hundred dollars for an online curriculum. It turned out, though, that he received a diploma within a few days of filling out what he thought was an initial survey of his academic qualifications.
A local community college denied him admission on the grounds that he did not have a legitimate transcript. However, we was able to enroll in a private-for-profit university. Although he dropped out within two weeks of starting at the school, he still owes thousands of dollars on student loans he took out from his short stint in higher education. Today he works as a housekeeper at Duke University.
His comments begin below:
I had a learning disability. I was placed very year in elementary school. I can never forget that. My friends would say, ‘you passed!’ I would say, ‘no, I got placed.’ It was very embarrassing. It was just that I got to be too big. I was 6’ 3” in middle school. I hated getting into those chairs. I was held back in 8th grade. I took 9th grade three times.
I had first tried to go back to high school in 2009 – to better myself. I went on the internet and I found Nation High School. They gave me a thirty minute test. I paid $125. Four days later, I had a diploma. But Durham Tech said that they would not recognize my transcript or my diploma. Later, I went back on the internet. I searched for “accredited diploma.” I found Continental Academy (later Southeastern High School). They said there would be some school work. So I paid $300. They sent me a packet of work, but I swear it only took about three hours to complete. Then, I had a diploma.
I was very excited. I would be the first in my family to be in college. I would be the first of my brothers with a high school diploma. My mother passed away when I was young, but my grandmother raised me. Both of my other brothers live at home, because neither one of them has a job. My 25-year old brother just got of Fort Dix (federal prison). I would have made her proud. I would have been the first to show her that I had a high school diploma and then a college degree.
In 2010, I decided to try for college. I typed “accredited college.” Rasmussen College was the third one. I remember that the University of Phoenix was first. I called and I was given a student adviser. I told him I was interested in computers. He suggested that I try the network administration program. He helped me with the FAFSA, which I didn’t know about, but he helped me through it. I received three Federal loans, one for $2,800, one for $2,000 and one for $4,000.
They gave me a test, but I had my wife help me. Well, she helped me with five questions. It was a thirty minute test. When I completed the test, they said I fell in the level where if I didn’t pass English in my first semester, I was automatically kicked out.
As I started school, I could not believe that you had to type every day. I was writing at a 5th grade level. I could not write worth a lick. I realized when I started typing, ‘why am I here?’ I thought college was going to be easy, but there is nothing easy about it. After the second week, I basically quit. They kicked me out on February 15th. They said I owed $1,300. I felt like I shouldn’t owe anything. I didn’t get any money in my hand. They kept calling me and so did the federal loans service. I thought I could pay it – its only $1,300. I made a payment of fifty dollars.
I heard nothing else, until last week when my employer said that the Department of Education has ordered a wage garnishment. They are going to take out fifteen percent of my net income. Its $120 a month that I cannot spare.
I felt if they had told me ‘no,’ I would have been disappointed. But they had found a reason, I would have accepted it, because I would bet that another school would have found the same reason. Like when you apply for credit: the first one says ‘no,’ then the second one says ‘no,’ and then the third one says ,’no.’
I think they should ask a person ‘are you truly ready?’ and check out your transcript. It says “transcript recommended but not required.” But the school got $1,300 and I’ve got to pay it back. I feel like I was set up to fail.