Update: The school saw our post and has been in touch with Daniel. Here’s what happened.
Daniel can’t get his diploma from the Art Institute Online, which is part of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, unless he comes up with nearly $3,000. The trouble is, he already completed the required courses for his degree and paid the school. The school originally told him that this was an oversight on their part and that he wouldn’t have to pay for the extra course, but they haven’t kept their word. Now he’s facing a balance of $2,758 that he has to pay if he ever wants to see his diploma, and nobody at the school will help him.
I’ve got a potential problem on my hands I could really use some help with. I’ll try to make it quick while still giving enough background to explain the situation. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
After much work, I was able to turn my Associate degree from another design school into a Bachelor of Science in Interactive Media Design at the Art Institute Online (Art Institute of Pittsburgh) while working more than full time as a Senior Creative Director in the Washington DC area – even got a 3.8 GPA.
I was scheduled to graduate last December and did in fact drive to Pittsburgh with family and friends from all over the east coast to attend the ceremony, where they had all my grad stuff and even announced I made Dean’s list when I walked. It was nice, I was born there and haven’t been back in years. My student loans automatically went back into repayment and I was ready to start another new chapter in my life.
Not more than a few weeks later, I received a phone call from one of the school’s financial advisors asking why I haven’t filled out/reapplied for financial aid for the upcoming quarter. I explained that I graduated to which she responded that I hadn’t and then put me on hold to speak to a student advisor. After a long wait, I was disconnected. Kind of freaked but thinking it a mistake, I emailed my student advisor to see what was up. A few days later, he called back to inform me that the school messed up and I needed one more core credit. Keep in mind that the school, not the student, sets the schedule at AiO. He informed me it was required for the degree and since it was their fault, it would be paid for by the school – I just had to buy one more $60 book. I even got to pick from a list of about eight classes.
Throughout taking this final class, I sill received bills (mail and email) for the class I was never signed up for (while in a false post-grad state). I was reassured that it just needed to be cleared up with financial. The class came and went and after much back and forth, I was told that now the whole class would not be paid for by the school because they approved me for a 2 credit class and the class I took was 3 credits. No, there wasn’t a credit count on the list I was given and in fact, I went back and looked at my degree audit and saw that ALL of my classes were either 3 or 4 credit classes. Not a 2 credit class in my whole academic career.
From previous experience, I’ve noticed from my student loan info each quarter that the classes were about $2400 each – and always had to be paid before starting or you wouldn’t be able to log in to the classroom. Somehow, my final “discounted” bill for the free class is $2758. From the info (I can scan it if you’d like to see it), it looks like they still left the class I never took on it at full price, plus the discounted class. I brought it up to my student advisor who said I could clear it up with financial and gave me two people’s contact info (in other words he couldn’t do anything more from this point). He did say it needed to be cleared up before I would be mailed a diploma.
I called both people and haven’t got a response after a couple weeks (I left a detailed message for both). Keep in mind the main number is that of whom I believe to be the head of the department and whom I’ve contacted with financial questions many times over the years and NEVER received a response – phone or email. The only time I heard her voice was when she thought I might owe money.
So there it is. My concern is it’s going to be sent off to collections and it will be too late to contest if the charges are even correct – which I’m fairly certain they’re not. After six long years of extra late nights and large bills looming over me from Sallie Mae for at least another decade, I don’t even have a diploma in my hands – just the blank case for it from the ceremony and a cap and gown that I’m still looking to somehow repurpose! Any ideas what I could do from this point?
I spoke with someone who used to work in the admissions department of a university to see if she’d have any insider advice. She says you should contact the dean of academic affairs and the dean of student affairs and report the problem. I noticed the terrible Art Institute Online website won’t help you with this–it’s nothing but marketing drivel designed to pull in new customers–but you should be able to find the necessary contact information in the school catalog.
If that doesn’t work, take your complaint to the Pennsylvania Department of Education:
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Main Information Number: 717-783-6788
TTY Number: 717-783-8445