My Student Loan Truth: Shaun’s Art Institute Story | Blog

February 26, 2020

“I don’t understand how this can even happen under the government’s watch. These schools aren’t just scamming students, they’re scamming the government for more money too.” 


Secretary DeVos’s new Borrower Defense rules will gut important protections for students cheated by for-profit colleges. The rules would impose near-impossible standards for defrauded students seeking their rights to loan cancellation, a process that the Department has already made incredibly difficult for students like Shaun Joyce.


This is Shaun’s student loan truth.


Why did you choose the Art Institute?

I was looking for a program in video game design. While I was searching around, a recruiter reached out to me and gave me an Art Institute brochure that showcased their interactive media program. 


Once you decided to enroll, what were the classes like?

A lot it was generic and never went into much depth. My gen-ed classes were essentially filler as I didn’t learn anything I hadn’t already learned in high school. None of my courses taught me anything regarding video games — save for a few Flash web games for my web design classes. We were told we were learning the foundational skills for designing video games, but it became obvious that that wasn’t going to happen. If I had known many of my instructors would rely on YouTube tutorials I could’ve stayed home. I was sold on a degree that would open the world of video games to me, but that door has remained closed.


What was the financial aid process like?

When I went to talk with the recruiter about figuring out how to pay for school, they took advantage of the fact that I was naive. They knew that my mom and I didn’t know what we were doing. They told me not to worry about being unable to afford it. They said the school would co-sign on my loans after my mom was denied for the Parent PLUS loan. After that, they just handed me a packet, told me where to sign, and let me start classes. It seemed so easy. I was 18 – I didn’t know what I was doing or what I was getting myself into. I thought I was making the responsible decision. I was just happy I was going to college.


What were the first red flags that something wasn’t right?

I think it first hit me when the woman who was helping me with my financial aid quit. I started to realize that the classes I was taking weren’t the ones I was promised, so I went to talk to her and found out she left. Then, I met with someone else who reiterated the message that I just needed to finish these classes and get them out of the way to get to the classes I really wanted to take. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to be just another statistic of someone who dropped out of college. 


Did you get a job in your field with the degree from the Art Institute?

Not really. I started working as a contract employee at a marketing company four years after graduating in 2014. But the reason they hired me wasn’t because of my degree, it was completely unrelated. 


What is your student loan situation now and how has it impacted your life?

I was originally quoted $64,000 to receive my Bachelor’s degree, but at this point, and even after switching down to an Associate’s once I realized I wasn’t learning video game design, the loans have ballooned and I owe almost $99,000. I filed for Borrower Defense back in 2015. I haven’t heard anything from the Department of Education. I call them regularly asking for any updates and they’re not helpful. They tend to lose paperwork without informing you until the very last minute. 


What would you say to the Department of Education about why these loans should be canceled? 

We were scammed. I don’t know how this is even allowed. These schools, especially the Art Institutes, knew what they were doing when they took advantage of us and it’s not fair to punish us for it.  I don’t understand how this can even happen under the government’s watch. These schools aren’t just scamming students, they’re scamming the government for more money too.