|Hello, my name is Megan Hansen. First, I would like to thank Senator Durbin for holding this forum and inviting me to share the story of my experience at Westwood College. Unfortunately, its not at all what I had hoped it would be. I graduated in March of this year with a degree in Criminal Justice, after attending Westwoods OHare campus and taking online classes. Im now $65,000 in debt and have wasted three years getting whats turning out to be a worthless degree. |
My dream was to work as a parole officer and then go on to law school, but that doesnt look very realistic at this point. After graduating, I quickly found out that most agencies wont call me back when I apply for jobs, and most traditional colleges dont recognize Westwoods degree or credits. My pursuit of higher education and the promise of a rewarding career have come to a screeching halt.
When I first saw Westwoods TV commercial about its Criminal Justice program more than three years ago, it really caught my eye, because it said I could be done in 3 years, instead of four. So, I called the school and went in for a tour. The Admissions Rep made it sound like Westwoods Criminal Justice program was one of the best. I would get all this hands on training and be taught by teachers who actually worked in the field. She made it sound like I was practically guaranteed a job when I graduated, and that the school would help me find a job.
It all sounded amazing, but when she told me about how much it would cost, I started having second thoughts. She said it would be $14,000 a year, which sounded like a lot, but I later discovered it was even more than that. I just recently got an account summary of what my last year cost, and it was $26,000 for just that one year. The two previous years were also more, coming to an additional 8-thousand dollars above what they told me it would be. Seeing how much this ended up costing is part of the great stress I deal with every day.
When I left Westwood that first day, I was still on the fence about whether to enroll, but then, they kept hounding me, calling me over and over, and telling me how great the school was, until I finally decided to go ahead and enroll; a decision I regret to this day.
Now, Im finding out *all that Career Placement help they promised has turned out to be just a bunch of emails about job openings that Im not qualified for, could have gotten without a degree, or are too far away for me to even consider. Worst of all, when I do send my resumes out, I never hear back from anyone. I send emails trying to find out if theyll consider me, and no one ever responds.
Ive also tried to apply to several regionally accredited schools in the Chicago area, but none of them will accept Westwoods credits. Its so frustrating, because the Admissions Rep never said anything about how Westwood didnt have regional accreditation or that my credits wouldnt transfer to most other schools. When I found out that the schools lack of accreditation might be a problem, it was more than a year after I enrolled. I confronted the Program Director about it, but she kept reassuring me time and time again, not to worry. She said Westwood was a candidate for regional accreditation and would become accredited. Westwood never did get the regional accreditation, and I just recently learned the school has even withdrawn its application.
I went to school to better my life, but Im still working as a receptionist in a doctors office, as I have for the past six years. So for now, I dont really know what to do. I cant afford to pay back my $65,000 in loans, which are deferred for now. In September, Im getting married, which is right about the time Im supposed to start paying on those loans.
This should be the happiest time in my life, but instead Im full of anxiety about what the future holds. I cant get a job in my field, I cant continue my education at a traditional school, and I cant pay back my loans.
Getting a college degree was supposed to give me a brighter future, but all its done is put me in a worse position than if I never went to college at all. I hope other people looking to further their education will listen to my story and be very careful before they sign up at one of these schools. I dont want them to end up like me. I wasted all this money, and, now Im totally sick to my stomach and dont know what to do.