The airing of grievances


The lesson of 2008 sure seems to be that they’re going to keep getting away with it. First, nobody seems to be paying much attention to the banks that are going around stealing people’s houses:

When Mimi Ash arrived at her mountain chalet here for a weekend ski trip, she discovered that someone had broken into the home and changed the locks.

When she finally got into the house, it was empty. All of her possessions were gone: furniture, her son’s ski medals, winter clothes and family photos. Also missing was a wooden box, its top inscribed with the words “Together Forever,” that contained the ashes of her late husband, Robert.

The culprit, Ms. Ash soon learned, was not a burglar but her bank. According to a federal lawsuit filed in October by Ms. Ash, Bank of America had wrongfully foreclosed on her house and thrown out her belongings, without alerting Ms. Ash beforehand.

The press is getting these stories out there on a fairly regular basis, which suggests that there’s a systematic story that they’re overlooking. But maybe instead of a systematic story about the mortgage industry, it’s something even bigger they should be looking for. Kaplan, which owns the Washington Post and runs a for-profit university, has been stealing from its students with something called “guerrilla registration”:

Arlen Castillo had just begun an online associate’s degree program at Kaplan University when a family emergency forced a change of plans. Her mother in Florida learned she needed extensive surgery that entailed months of recuperation. Only two weeks into her first term, Castillo promptly withdrew to lend her mother support.

As Castillo recalls, a Kaplan academic advisor told her she could simply fill out a withdrawal form and incur no additional expenses beyond the registration fees she had already paid. But a year and a half later, in 2006, collections agents began hounding her, she says, demanding that she pay some $10,000 in supposedly overdue tuition charges. Despite having attended only two online sessions, Castillo had remained officially enrolled at Kaplan for nearly a year after her withdrawal.

Far from an aberration, Castillo’s experience typifies the results of a practice known informally inside Kaplan as “guerrilla registration”: academic advisors have long enrolled students in classes they never take, without their consent and sometimes even after they have sought to withdraw from the university, in order to maximize the company’s revenues, according to interviews with former employees.

This looks like a much deeper pathology than just a bunch of money-crazed Wall St. execs — it seems to infect a swath of American capitalism, and to have some important national news outlets in its thrall.

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    • Candy

      This trend does not bode well for anyone.