Approximately in September or October of 2006 I was contacted by an Admissions Representative from Westwood College Online. The call came in response to an inquiry I had made about receiving information about the school. The person on the other end of the line identified herself as a woman by the name of Evelyn Trammell. After a lengthy interview we concluded that I did not have the funds to attend the school. I explained to Miss Trammell that I was not working and that I was only receiving $600 a month from SSDI.
At that time I backed out but she was very persistent. The calls kept coming in. On one such occasion she told me that I was eligible for exclusive grants based on my disability.
She told me that because of my condition that I would be eligible for special grants that would pay for most of the cost of tuition. These grants were not to be confused with loans and would not have to be repaid. At one point she had us place a 3 way call to my parents in which we began to receive a lengthy and detailed breakdown of the costs of attendance. I found this much information to be hopeless and confusing.
I informed Miss Trammell at that point that I could not understand her and requested that she tell me the exact cost of the 3 year bachelor degree from start to finish without all the itemization. I could not have been more clear on establishing this point with her, as it was the primary factor in determining my decision to be able to accept this kind of agreement or not. Being that I was on a fixed income, being able to understand and repay my financial obligations was a serious matter to me and of the utmost importance.
At that time, both my parents and I were informed quite clearly that the total cost of a 3 year tuition would be approximately $24,000 without any assistance whatsoever. Once the grants were applied, the maximum we were promised would be less than $12,000 or under $4000 per year at the most (less if I completed the program sooner). The remaining $12,000 or so was to be taken out in school loans which would have to be repaid within 6 months after graduating or leaving school.
In reality, the cost of the education was much higher; a figure I estimate to have been well over $20,000 - $25,000 per year. There was also the matter of the $150 dollar admissions fee.
The problems at Westwood did not end there. Instructors displayed little to no interest in students. Participation was mostly lethargic from teachers and students. Emails and phone calls went unreturned when help or clarification was needed. It seemed I was being introduced to a new student advisor every semester. Often times I was given a passing grade (even consistently making the dean's list) with little to no understanding of the subject matter that was being presented (beyond use of metaphor) even though I would read the material and do the assignments.
On one occasion a flamed discussion broke out in one of the classrooms in which I became the target and I was strongly cautioned not to respond by the administration. It was at this point that I began to strongly lose interest and question the integrity of the program all together. I became depressed and did not want to log into class after that incident; however, I did not want to fail either. I stopped reading the assignments and proceeded to participate at the bare minimal level and still my grades remained unchanged.
At some point I received a letter stating that my school costs were already at upwards of $14,000 even though I had only participated in two, maybe two and a half semesters of 9 weeks apiece. In addition to this my parents were being asked to submit $150 to the school each month to help cover the cost of books and materials for the time that I was there. I felt paralyzed and did not know what to do. $14,000 was a lot of money if I decided to back out and I would have nothing to show for it. However, I felt that if I kept going this cost would become even more incapacitating and unmanageable. This was about the moment when I first realized I had been lied to.
Even if I had been satisfied with the level of education this number was far beyond our original verbal agreement. When I attempted to locate the school bursar to find out how much of this amount I was actually responsible for, nobody seemed to know what a bursar was. Attempts to locate the school bursar or owner on the internet or over the phone have also proved unsuccessful.
I am asking that whoever receives this letter to please contact me and investigate Westwood College Online for fraudulent activity. They used my disability to manipulate me into signing for loans in exchange for grants which either were not applied or never existed. They used this information to deceive my parents (who are elderly and retired) into making monthly payments to the school.
I am being harassed by debt collectors claiming to be from Zwicker & Associates out of Andover, Massachusetts stating that I owe over $6000 while refusing to provide any proof of debt or the original signed document(s) in question. Even if the documents are signed I am contesting them under the basis that fraud was committed. They are also threatening to seize any assets or government funds I may be receiving. Furthermore I am admitting, and have admitted to the staff at Westwood College, that I do not understand the legal language being used against me and need help in understanding and asserting any rights I may be entitled to under the law.
I have asked the school to reverse any such transactions as if they never existed based on the claim that their behavior was in fact fraudulent and deceptively used for the purpose of obtaining money that they were never entitled to collect in the first place. So far they have refused to cooperate and are denying any wrongdoing. I have confronted Evelyn Trammel about this over the phone and she has denied all of it. I have also contacted the ombudsman and people in the financial aid office on several occasions to no avail. Both my parents and I agree that we were quoted a much lower price for the cost of this education. Any excess in the loans over the cost of the tuition that was explained to us was dismissed as a surplus which would be returned to the lender.
new york, New York