SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Two Ventura County women signed up for an online nursing program hoping to get ahead, but it didn't turn out the way they planned. They eventually called the NewsChannel Three Tipline for help.
Deanna Guerra and Navis del Castillo have similar dreams -- to get a bachelor's degree in nursing. So they signed up with The College Network. They've paid thousands of dollars in tuition and dedicated hundreds of hours studying, only to find out they may not get credit for any of it. "Very frustrated because I have a life. I have a little one and I have to take care of my family," said Navis del Castillo as she sipped coffee at a Ventura Starbucks during a recent lunch break.
NewsChannel Three called the California Department of Consumer Affairs to find out more about The College Network and its online educational services. A spokesman said that last year the State of California decided a business arrangement The College Network brokered with Sonoma State and Indiana State universities to offer online nursing classes is not legal in California. Many students started to question if they would get credit for the online classes they had already completed or were taking at the time. Ventura resident Deanna Guerra said she called The College Network, but she said officials there never gave her a straight answer. "I'm angry, I still have my motivation for schooling. We're LVNs right now and we want to get our RN and our bachelor's. We want to move forward."
However, Guerra still owes $8,000 to The College Network, and del Castillo owes $,5,000. To make matters worse, both women say they complained, but The College Network still wants the money. "I got the run-around saying they were looking at different schools. They were never giving us a true answer," said Guerra.
Newschannel Three contacted The College Network at its headquarters in Indianapolis. Mark Campbell, public affairs representative for The College Network, confirmed there was a 60-day window where they looked for alternatives for their California students, but he says that's been resolved and all students will get credit toward their degree. Campbell said the students who would have completed their clinical studies at Sonoma State University must now complete that work through VA hospitals in California instead.
However, that's not necessarily the end of the story. NewsChannel Three discovered other students have posted complaints similar to Guerra's and del Castillo's about The College Network on various consumer websites such as pissedconsumer.com. The disgruntled students talk about organizing a class action lawsuit. There's even an open letter to President Obama hoping he can help them. "Now, we're stuck in a bind because if we want to go to a different school, we're going to be paying for a new school and pay for a school we aren't even using", said Guerra. Del Castillo said she feels the same frustration: "I do get my statements every month and I'm just frustrated because there's my statement and there goes my money."
Both women say that even if The College Network has finally worked out its problems, they want to start over somewhere else.
Officials with The College Network said they have done everything possible to help Guerra and del Castillo complete and pass their courses. They said The College Network has 200,000 success stories, however they made a promise to NewsChannel Three that their director of student relations will contact both Guerra and del Castillo to work out an arrangement so they don't have to pay for two schools at the same time. We'll let you know what happens.
If you have a problem and need help, call our NewsChannel Three Tipline at 805-882-3903.