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Each year, tens of thousands of American students are harmed by predatory colleges and universities. These are their voices. These are their stories. 

The stories below are part of part of a portrait series produced by the National Student Legal Defense Network and filmmaker and photographer Alexander Shebanow and featured in the documentary Fail State. Currently, the U.S. Department of Education’s rulemaking sessions — known as NegReg — can make a difference for students cheated by unscrupulous schools by strengthening borrower defense to repayment rules. 


This $50,000 Piece of Paper is Actually Completely Worthless’

Jennifer Wilson always dreamed of going to college. A life-upending trauma prompted her to pursue an associate’s degree so she could work as a victim’s advocate at her local police department. Graduation was only the start of her problems. Read her story.


It’s Hard to Put Into Words How Betrayed I Feel’

RJ Infusino thought he was on the path to a new career as an audio engineer when he enrolled at the Illinois Institute of Art. Instead, after his school lost its accreditation, withheld the loss to its students, and closed, he was bumped from one for-profit school to another, accumulating debt and moving further from his career path. Read his story.


I Had to Look at My Wife and Tell Her They Just Took Our Home’

When Kendrick Harrison used his G.I. Bill to attend Argosy University, he received a stipend for living expenses — until suddenly, he didn’t. The school put him off for months, and he juggled creditors until finally, a school official told him Argosy was in court-appointed receivership. The school had mismanaged over $13 million in student funds and could not locate the money. By then, Harrison and his family were already evicted from their home. Read his story.


No One Was Representing the Students’

As Marina Awed was finishing her law degree at Western State College of Law at Argosy University, she found out the school was about to close — and with it her opportunity to get her law degree after nearly three years of hard work at the university. She used her legal expertise to file a motion to force the school to stay open until she could graduate. Read her story.


I Refuse to Pay for Something I Didn’t Get’

When Marie Johnson-Lattier dropped out of a training program at for-profit California Institute less than two weeks after she began, she asked the school to return her loans to the federal government, as required by law. Instead, they kept the money, making Johnson-Lattier responsible for the loan — and its repayment. Read her story.


It’s Like You Want to Wake Up From a Bad Nightmare’

To Jaime Murillo, the criminal justice program at Chicago’s Westwood College looked like a path to a career in law enforcement. However, when he found out that the Chicago Police Department didn’t accept Westwood’s credits because the school was unaccredited, he was left with a useless degree and over $50,000 in student loans. Read his story.