On Your Side: Student calls 12 after diploma dispute with college

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A student calls 12 in a panic, on the verge of getting kicked out of Virginia College with no degree and deeply in debt, just weeks before her December graduation.

The resolution came in the form of a voice message from Virginia College President Thom Eastwood. He admits the school made a mistake in processing Sabrina Medley's enrollment two years ago. Still, she was given an ultimatum.

Virginia College accepted responsibility after we got involved.

Sabrina enrolled in the for-profit school to become a medical assistant and had no reason to think she'd have to fight to keep from being kicked out, until she got bad news from the president of Virginia College.

"He said, 'You won't be able to graduate with your diploma, we don't take correspondence diplomas.' I said, 'So, how did I get into the school?' He said, he didn't know," said Sabrina.
Such disappointing news after she'd been a student for two years. The diploma Virginia College accepted back then was unacceptable now. It's from a correspondence school that conducts classes through the mail.
"We argued. Said a couple of words that I don't care to repeat. He said, 'Either you go and get a GED, or you stop coming to school.'"

Sabrina says she was scared she might not pass the GED test and she couldn't quit. The school had it's tuition money and she had $45,000 in student loans to repay.

"It makes me feel horrible, because... are they doing it for the money? Why are they doing it? I did everything I was supposed to do. I came to school everyday. It was their fault and they took two years to find out."

I took the complaint to the state council of higher education. It says Federal Title IV regulations require verification that a high school is legit.
"It sounds like maybe somebody should have been a little bit more thoughtful, but it's not unheard of that they might come back and treat a student who had been there for a while as though they had to satisfy new regulation," said Joe Defilippo for the State Council of Higher Education.

It found no pattern of complaints and says the error was made from confusion, not a violation of law.

I reached out to Virginia College. The president did not talk on camera. He left this phone message:

"Our students' success is our highest priority. We have determined that some mistakes were made in the processing of Ms. Medley's enrollment, and we take full responsibility for them. We do not want her to be disadvantaged due to this error. She will be able to finish her program and graduate in December as she had planned."

The mistake did not happen on the current president's watch. Virginia College brought in Eastwood last February.

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