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newbie543

old unpaid tuition in collections

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In 2007, I went to law school for a year. After 1 year, I decided to withdraw. During the summer of 2008, I got a job, sent a note to the school through some kind of online messaging system and never went back. In September of 2008, I received a  tuition bill and called the school upon receiving it. I was told that they never got my message and that I should now send an email so they could have my intent to withdraw on file. So, I sent the the email and was told over the phone that I owed 60% of the tuition since it was now the third week of class. I never paid the bill since I didn't have $6,000 and haven't heard from the school since April of this year.

 

My mom called me and said they sent a bill to their house so  I called , explained what had happened 5 years ago to see if they would wipe the debt, but they won't and said that if I don't pay the bill it will  be reported to a licensed collection agency.

 

I'm not sure what to do at this point. I don't have $6,000 (I have about $100,000 in student loan debt that I'm currently paying off). If they report this debt to a collections agency- my questions are:

 

1. If I don't pay it, how long will it be on my credit report?

2. Do you think I have any reason to dispute this debt? I mean, I wasn't a student there anymore and it's not my problem that they're messaging system didn't work.

 

I'm feeling so nervous right now so any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

 

Not sure if this matters, but I live in Massachusetts.

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1. If I don't pay it, how long will it be on my credit report?

 

Since you attempted to withdraw in either late spring or early summer of 2008 it would be able to remain on your CR until approximately the end of 2015.  

 

However, there is another concern:  if this is a state school then the debt becomes a debt owed to the state and they can garnish state and federal tax refunds.  All they have to do is report it.

 

2. Do you think I have any reason to dispute this debt? I mean, I wasn't a student there anymore and it's not my problem that they're messaging system didn't work.

 

Not that I can see.  This is a mistake that MANY students make.  When you withdraw it is YOUR responsibility to follow the school procedure to do so and ensure it is completed.  Like many students you sent an email and assumed that was it.  If you do not properly withdraw by the drop date then you owe the tuition.  I am currently enrolled in college and every school I checked out and the two I have attended all have made their drop dates for refund or partial tuition VERY clear.

 

While you can dispute it, based on what you posted the debt appears to be yours.  

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It is not a mistake that many students make, it is how schools do business, When a student with drawls, they need to keep copies of the paper work. I have had a lot of people come to me about this.

 

I would also say that the sol to sue and win has expired , or it is darn close to it. My wife is from the cape and this happened to her before she moved to camp lejune where I was stationed.

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The SOL in Massachusetts is 6 years, so they still have another year to sue if they want to. However, my main concern right now is my credit. If this will disappear from my credit in 2 years (end of 2015), does my credit automatically improve?

 

This is a private school- not state.

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If it is a priviate school, not state, I don't think it is subject to the same rules as a student loan, which has no SOL.  They are probably getting ready to send it to collections because it is nearing the SOL, if they are going to collect, they need to do it soon.  You could send a DV letter, usually needs to be within 30 days of the notice they sent.  That will only stall them, but if you can bide your time until SOL runs, you will be good.  It will fall off your credit in 2015 unless they get a judgement, then a new one will appear.  They can only get a judgement if you fail to answer a lawsuit, and they get a default, or if you do answer, and lose in court.  Your credit should come up in points once it falls off.

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If you had already signed up for classes for the next term, or if the program in that law school had a fixed pattern they expected everyone to follow, then of course they are "holding a place for you".  So that gets us to the messaging system.  I don't know if they actually failed to get it, or lost it, or threw it away, or are just plain lying.  Every one of those reasons happens to people all the time, especially that last one.  That's one of the reasons why we so often say "if it isn't in writing, it didn't happen".  So you don't have a receipt in writing that they were informed of your withdrawn under their terms of doing so.

 

OTOH, consider this.  I don't think that procedure is even right.  I work in IT security.  So I know that virtually everything computer based is vulnerable to security issues.  I would never accept such a commitment as a withdrawal to be done by any computer messaging system.  The risk is that someone else could fake your withdrawal.  I suspect the problem is, they simply didn't connect the message with YOU specifically.

 

So I agree with some previous remarks about it being your responsibility.  This is a lesson almost everyone learns in a hard way.  That lesson is that YOU need to think about everything in terms of "how can I prove this in court".  Seriously.  You at least started on your way to a law degree.  It's still OK to THINK like a lawyer.  I bet the school procedures were done that way.

 

FYI: in my line of work, I have to think like a hacker.  Fortunately for me, I used to be one.

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It is not a mistake that many students make, 

 

Sure it is.  I am in school now and see it EVERY single semester.  There is a plethora of them in the advisement office daily arguing that they withdrew from their classes and when asked for the paperwork with the professor and adviser's signature with the final approval of the withdrawal inevitably the next statement is "I didn't do that but I told my professor I was dropping the class."  

 

Students assume that simply telling someone or emailing is sufficient instead of learning what the actual process is.  Then they discover when they either can't register for the next semester's classes or it is on their credit report that they owe tuition and argue they withdrew.  

 

Most college emails go to unmonitored email boxes and that is why every one that I have been enrolled in advises students to follow up on all official actions that could affect their classes, GPA, and financial aid WITH the office that is responsible for that part of their account.

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Sure it is.  I am in school now and see it EVERY single semester.  There is a plethora of them in the advisement office daily arguing that they withdrew from their classes and when asked for the paperwork with the professor and adviser's signature with the final approval of the withdrawal inevitably the next statement is "I didn't do that but I told my professor I was dropping the class."  

 

Students assume that simply telling someone or emailing is sufficient instead of learning what the actual process is.  Then they discover when they either can't register for the next semester's classes or it is on their credit report that they owe tuition and argue they withdrew.  

 

Most college emails go to unmonitored email boxes and that is why every one that I have been enrolled in advises students to follow up on all official actions that could affect their classes, GPA, and financial aid WITH the office that is responsible for that part of their account.

This is exactly what I am talking about. Most students do not go about withdrawing from school in the correct manner, and they never keep proof they withdrew. This is what schools take vantage of.

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I went to a community college class and they required you to withdraw the first week in order to get all of your tuition back.  I don't know when full tuition would have been due, but I imagine it is soon after the course starts.  

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This is exactly what I am talking about. Most students do not go about withdrawing from school in the correct manner, and they never keep proof they withdrew. This is what schools take vantage of.

 

Take advantage?  These are ADULT students not elementary school who doesn't understand enrollment processes. Even elementary school kids understand if they want to go on the class field trip Mom/Dad has to sign the permission slip.  No slip to trip.  It is COLLEGE.  If you can't follow simple instructions as to how you enroll and drop classes then you have NO business being in college.  

 

The school puts the responsibility squarely where it belongs:  on the student.  It isn't taking advantage when the are too stupid to follow simple written instructions and ask for help BEFORE they run up debt.

 

I have withdraws from classes twice and both times followed up to ensure the process completed and then printed the paperwork.  Like taxes it goes into a file and is saved for future need until I graduate and have the degree and all loans are paid off bare minimum.  

 

If colleges didn't have air tight processes for dropping classes then students would take advantage and register for far more than they intend to complete and that deprives students who are intent on actually taking the class from getting a spot.  It isn't like there is unlimited space especially in the highly desired classes and professors.  

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I went to a community college class and they required you to withdraw the first week in order to get all of your tuition back.  I don't know when full tuition would have been due, but I imagine it is soon after the course starts.  

 

Varies from school to school now.  The CC I went to in GA required you to pay tuition when you registered unless you had financial aid on file.  The college I am in now requires you pay by the start date, have aid on file, or enter into a payment plan.  Down south you could drop within 7 days of the semester starting and get a full refund.  Drop after that date and you get a W on your transcript but still have to pay for the semester.  Up north:  staggered drop dates with staggered refunds until the midpoint then you pay no matter what. 

 

Hence the reason you HAVE to know the rules if you are a student.

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Hence the reason you HAVE to know the rules if you are a student.

It's a good general life lesson as well.  :) 

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Take advantage?  These are ADULT students not elementary school who doesn't understand enrollment processes. Even elementary school kids understand if they want to go on the class field trip Mom/Dad has to sign the permission slip.  No slip to trip.  It is COLLEGE.  If you can't follow simple instructions as to how you enroll and drop classes then you have NO business being in college.

These are also law students.  With the possible exception of s subset of computer science and math students, I'd expect law students to understand this way better than typical adult students.  Those that don't should drop out.

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You are not telling me anything I do not know,, i have a B.A. in political Science took 5 years, then law school was another 4 years so I know how schools are.

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"If you don't have it in writing, it didn't happen"

 

This is the lesson to learn.  Sure, LOTS of students have not learned it.  LOTS have not learned even when they graduate.  But a higher percentage of LAW students should know this a LOT sooner than their peers in most other fields of study.  Anyone who has at least not learned it after their last year should not get a degree, nor get a license to practice law.

 

When I went to college, the 4 schools I attended made it quite clear in the student handbook, in a section or page about withdrawing, exactly how to handle it for the varying cases (withdrawing from school, vs. withdrawing from specific classes).  The timings in terms of things like number of weeks, and what office to go to, was spelled out.  The schedule of classes book for that term spelled out exact withdrawal deadlines for that term and what percentage of refund was allowed.  Any student who read the things they are supposed to read would know these things.

 

Now days, they probably have most of this online, and probably only online, so it might be harder to find.  The web is a great place to find lots of stuff but you have to look for it.  A book was a poor place to find lots of stuff, but it was great to read what you needed to know, if you'd just do it.  I don't know if the latter can be done anymore fo where everything is online.  I just depends on how complete they make the menus, or how hard they want to make things be found (as way too many big corporations intentionally do).

 

At one of these schools, one year, somehow I got signed up for a class I didn't actually sign up for.  I didn't find out because it was NOT on the schedule I received.  Somehow it happened as part of the open class change period.  This was back when this stuff was processed by batched punch cards on mainframe computers.  I also knew their system (change cards followed the student ID card).  A little shuffling of cards would blow the whole thing.  And THEIR staff knew it, too.  It was already well past the normal withdrawal deadline.  But I claimed it was error not caused be me.  I told them they could verify from the prof that I had never attended the class nor had the prerequisites (it was a senior level geology class and I only had taken a freshman introductory geology class).  But they never even bothered to follow up anything and just took me off that class on the spot.  They just were looking for a convincing story, because they knew things like this had happened before (including a case of my cousin and another student of similar name getting all their grade reports swapped between them).

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When I went to college, the 4 schools I attended made it quite clear in the student handbook, in a section or page about withdrawing, exactly how to handle it for the varying cases (withdrawing from school, vs. withdrawing from specific classes).  The timings in terms of things like number of weeks, and what office to go to, was spelled out.  The schedule of classes book for that term spelled out exact withdrawal deadlines for that term and what percentage of refund was allowed.  Any student who read the things they are supposed to read would know these things.

 

Now days, they probably have most of this online, and probably only online, so it might be harder to find.  The web is a great place to find lots of stuff but you have to look for it.  A book was a poor place to find lots of stuff, but it was great to read what you needed to know, if you'd just do it.  I don't know if the latter can be done anymore fo where everything is online.  I just depends on how complete they make the menus, or how hard they want to make things be found (as way too many big corporations intentionally do).

 

It is online now.  At the one I withdrew from you started the process online and each stage that had to approve/acknowledge it:  adviser, financial aid, admissions, and professor had to do their part to move it to the next stage.  Each time a department or person did their part you got an email showing a green light on that stage.  When it was done and final you got an email stating you were officially withdrawn and any money you owed to the school as a result of refunded financial aid to the government for loans etc.  

 

However, on EVERY email students were told to check their online student account OFTEN in the process to ensure it completed and NOT to rely on the emails.  I checked DAILY to make sure it went through and then saved the email and printed it.  

 

Because of online access now ever professor I have had in ever class puts the withdrawal dates and process in the class syllabus which is available if not a couple of weeks before classes start on day one of class.  NO reason not to know what to do.

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Those that don't should drop out.

But make sure they follow the proper withdrawal process.  :p

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I had this happen to me several times while going to school and was activated to go to Bosnia and Iraq, when I got back collection companies were after me. I gave the school my orders but they still billed me.

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I had this happen to me several times while going to school and was activated to go to Bosnia and Iraq, when I got back collection companies were after me. I gave the school my orders but they still billed me.

What if the school says "we never got them"?

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That is what happens a lot,,,,the school claims they didn't get them. I took them in and had the fin aid officer sign a copy of my orders with a statement they were received. but when I got home I was approached by the Sheriff and told there is a bench warrant for me. So I called and showed up the next day to talk to the Judge, when I showed him my orders he dropped the warrant and eventually the whole case. The case was dismissed because of their faulty affidavit of non military status,,,,if i would have known then what I know now I would have pursued the case further for perjury. So do not tell me they do not take advantage of people,,,they figured hell he is gone he can't fight the suit and we get a quick default judgment.

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