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Exclusive: An Ashford University Student Describes Her Frustrations With The Online School

By on February 22, 2013
Domestic, Education Quality, Ethics, For-Profit, Interview, Required, Universities & Colleges

Recently, we heard from an Ashford University student who read our earlier interview with a former staffer from the school. The student, Maya Walker, had her own story to tell. She’s working her complaints with the grievance offices at Ashford and hoping for resolution. We think it’s very interesting for other prospective students to hear her story. Maya, 41, lives in San Jose, Calif. Here’s the exchange with Maya via email.

Maya 1
Maya Walker

WA - Please describe your educational pathway from high school to college and now?

MW - I had a hard time in high school… I never felt accepted and the stress of fitting in disallowed me to focus on my studies. Although I was challenged in high school, my motivation to succeed did not wane.  When I entered junior college for the first time, I was so relieved that it was nothing like high school. The teachers no longer publicly ridiculed me, the students weren’t teasing me or threatening to beat me up, and It just felt like I didn’t need to be “somebody” anymore. I didn’t feel the need to “fit” in. Or more accurately, I did fit in.

Although I was much happier in college, I was still challenged with trying to balance education and survival. I ended up taking many years to finish school. The positive side to that is I was fortunate enough to experience a diverse education at many different colleges. I have been to; Moorpark college in Moorpark, CA, Front Range college in Boulder, CO, Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barbara, CA (which, by the way, was my favorite junior college of all-my english teacher started the class every morning with a ten minute meditation-so cool),  Cabrillo college in Aptos, CA, Humboldt State University, Acrata, CA, and, finally, Ashford University.

Like so many adult students out there, I had trouble balancing school and life. I was well supported in all these schools however, and the reason it took me so long was not because of lack of support in the school, but my own challenges of making it in the world. Of course my life experiences kept pointing me back to school however, and to the importance of finishing my education.

Although my educational path was littered with the common obstacles many are faced with trying to manage life while staying in school, I managed to keep a GPA of 3.5 and was accepted into Humboldt State University in the psychology BA program. At HSU I earned a GPA of a 3.85 and continued to excel. In my sophomore year, I was accepted in to the MA program in Behavioral Neuroscience, and was leading a research lab working on EMG recording of facial movements with regard to emotion. Unfortunately, uncontrollable life circumstances required that I withdrawal from HSU a semester shy of graduation. I would have liked to go back to HSU and finish my BA, however, at that time, it wasn’t possible for me to move up to Humboldt county again. This is what prompted me to seek out an online education. I thought that it would be easier for me to finish my degree online while working and, I only had 13 more credits to go, so I figured I would just try to power through an online course to get my degree.

WA - How much have you spent on your Ashford coursework?

MW - I have taken a total of 24 units and have spent over $10,000 at Ashford

WA - What are your primary grievances with Ashford University?

MW - Before I get into that, I want to point out that out of all the colleges I’ve been to-every one, had a financial aid department and financial aid counselors would go over the costs of school and inform me of any discrepancies in terms of cost, and financial obligations. I was greatly supported. The schools really took care of me and I trusted them to point me in the right direction. I was used to trusting an educational institution.

When I applied to Ashford University in 2010, I assumed I could trust them, just the same as before, to give me accurate information to the best of their ability. I expected them to look out for my well being, even if it meant discouraging me from taking a particular program, or advising on the limitations of financial aid. In all my experiences at the other schools, the admission counselor would go over my transcripts with me, and let me know where I stood. They would let me know EXACTLY how many credits will transfer in to the program, and how many I needed to complete at their institution- before they collected my financial aid money and started me in class.

My admissions person was very eager to get me started and assured me that all my financial aid would take me through the program. I had only 13 more credits left. He told me that Ashford University would transfer all my HSU courses, and assured me that I would have my degree in no time. I believed them when they told me that my financial aid would pay for my entire program because, not only was I used to trusting my school advisors, I didn’t have many credits left to earn. I also believed him when they said they would transfer all classes. I have a boat load of credits on my transcripts and I was 13 credits shy of graduating at HSU. So, I believed my admissions coordinator and didn’t think to get what he was promising in writing.

Ashford admissions lied to me about everything that was most important in my decision to attend their school. They stated that they were accredited by the WASC and that was the main reason I chose them. It was hard to find an online college that had WASC accreditation, which was important to me. Now I find out that they were using questionable tactics to claim WASC accreditation, and their application for accreditation has been denied. Moreover, I kept getting misguided advice from day one with Ashford. They wanted me to start right away, even BEFORE they received my transcripts! I was 4 months into the program when they contacted me about how they were not going accept some core classes from HSU, and have me take more GE classes!  I was mortified. Not only was I lied to about that, I could not believe that they were questioning  core classes from Humboldt State University, and comparing them to their outrageously easy, non effective, short, online classes - that don’t even give your brain time to really assimilate the material.

It had seemed that much of my time at Ashford was spent trying to fix problems, rather than actually learning. They lied about my financial aid money. I didn’t have enough to cover the entire program… Unfortunately, it was too late for me to back out. I was already thousands of dollars in with them and not enough to start at another school. Twenty four credits later and I’m still over $5000 dollars away from finishing. I’m out of financial aid and I now have to come up with that money in order to continue. Remember, I had only 13 credits left when I entered. No one told me I would have to take so many more classes to get my degree.

I have strong suspicions that this institution does not care at all about it’s students graduating, and was willing to misrepresent themselves in order to increase admissions. I am anxious to start graduate school and I feel that Ashford University is blocking my further education. I had no idea that I was potentially shooting myself in the foot by taking the “easier” (but very expensive) path to finish my schooling. If I was given proper admissions and financial counseling, I would have decided to go to a local state university with a lower tuition cost. The education I got from my previous junior and state college was far superior than that of this online program. The only reason I agreed to do the online program is that I only had a few more classes left and they promised me my loans would cover it.

WA - What is your plan now educationally and professionally?

MW - My dream is to pursue a doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology and use that to help so many who are suffering in this world.

But, I would like to add, I am now stuck. I can’t continue my education because they have used up all my financial aid money, put a hold on my transcripts and won’t let me continue until I pay in full for my classes.  I just can’t afford to pay out of pocket until I can get a better job that will allow me to take care of myself while going to school. The catch is I need the education to get that better job. I have been trying to come up with something and talking with multiple schools. There is a class action law suit against Ashford, for the same grievances I have, that is now in progress.

WA- What would you advise to other students who are considering Ashford University?

MW - If you must do an online program, then demand to wait to start classes until they have finished looking over your transcripts and letting you know for certain what courses will  be transferred. This way, you have the ability to decide to go to another school before you spend thousands of dollars. If you don’t wait, they will wait until you are well into the program before they come back with the bad news. Also be sure to get all promises in writing, do your research on feedback from other students about the school. I’m kicking myself for not doing that because I have found hundreds of negative and downright evil statements about Ashford University and how horrible they are. Also, I would demand to talk with the financial aid department to get true financial information- not your admissions coordinator (who is really just another sales person trying to get you to start). Even the “financial advisor” who I dealt with didn’t seem to know anything about financial aid at all. Unfortunately it was like pulling teeth trying to talk to anyone other than my advisor at the school, and their financial aid department is really called the “processing department”. The employees in the processing department seemed to be better trained in the legalities and particulars of the financial aid process. Do your own analysis of your financial aid status as well as your borrowing limits. Don’t trust anyone there to tell you that you can afford this school.  If your looking, however, for a real education and not just a degree, than you should chose another school than Ashford University.

I have learned over the years that it’s not the rocks in your way that make the difference, but the path we choose around the rocks. In other words, don’t let the obstacles in your way keep you from moving forward. For so many students, staying in and finishing school isn’t easy and in some cases, feels impossible. This is why I have become so passionately involved in seeking justice and stopping Ashford University from stealing away our educational dreams in order to earn a buck. It isn’t right that Ashford University preys on its students for profit, instead of supporting them through one of the most difficult time in their lives. Being an adult student isn’t easy, and the last thing that we need is big business trying to take advantage of innocent, struggling students.



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Jeffrey Lee
Feb 28, 2013

I can certainly relate to her frustrations with Ashford University. Fortunately, I was able to graduate, but the school definitely needs a dramatic makeover. Customer service is surely lacking and trying to get answers from anyone within the student aid department is nearly non-existent. My graduation ceremony was a complete debacle and cancelled at the last minute (VIA Facebook & Twitter post) due to inclement weather that was forecast for over a week. Horrible planning and no backup options surely made my trip from Southern California a pathetic one. My family and I spent nearly 5,000 on a trip to Iowa to see my graduation… Sadly, I never got to experience it :( Shortly after I returned home, I decided to submit a couple of columns to the local Iowa newspapers. You can read more about my frustration with Ashford University by clicking on the below links.

Apr 9, 2013

I have had very similar situations. I am not as far along as this student, but I had taken 6 general education courses that I was told would transfer with no problem. AFTER I started and they finally put my “transferred” credits into my student portal, only 2 of those classes transferred. They had one excuse after another as to why my previous science course did not suffice for theirs, nor did my finance class. My financial aid was delayed, then delayed again and no one knew why. I excelled in math in high school and asked them if their was a way to take a placement test to show I did not need to take math. My advisor said their was and he would find it. It has been months and he still hasn’t “found” it. I thought I would have extra money with financial aid to pay for out of pocket materials. The advisor said that I would certainly not have to worry about the money and financial aid would cover everything. Their costs ended up being MORE than they originally led on. I did not know about the technology before enrolling, so that $1100 or so was a shock! I luckily had enough to pay for the courses. Now their tuition has done UP and before the new financial aid year. They do not even give you a chance to prepare, they make it effective immediately. I am a strong student and work hard, even with three small children and working. This program is making things very difficult. I am just glad that I have had some good instructors and TAs (though, a couple have been difficult, not it work load, but fairness). I hope that you can find a fix for all and finish that degree you have been working so hard for!

Sarah Johnston
Jun 4, 2013

I just started ashford in April, I honestly hate it, they are stringing me along I have been waiting forever for my transcripts, I am taking classes that I don’t need and I don’t qualify for pell grant since I already used it for my first BA degree and I am thinking about transferring.. Is it to late to leave!?

Jun 27, 2013

I am having the same problem with Ashford. I completed ALL required classes in Sep 2010. Two months (and many calls on my part) I discovered I would not be receiving my degree and there was a hold on my account. Ashford decided that I owed them money, because they claim to have sent back some of my financial aid money. Representatives claim that ALL Pell grant monies will be used BEFORE loan monies, but this is untrue. I have recorded calls of them stating this. I decided I would not continue my education with Ashford shortly before I was due to graduate, which is the only reason I can see as to why they decided I owed them money. Two months AFTER I complete classes they decide this, seems like fraud to me. FYI I did not fail any classes and received A’s and B’s in most, with the exception of one or two C’s. I am interested in a class action lawsuit against them, but I need to speak with other students who have or are going through the same/similar issue with Ashford. Please reach me at my blog, with any questions, comments, suggestions, or anything.

Jun 27, 2013

Ashford University is refusing to release my degree/transcripts to me. I completed all required coursework and received A’s and B’s. Two months AFTER I finished Ashford decided that I owed them money. I paid my graduation fee and it was accepted and applied to graduation before the fee appeared. NO contact to me was made about me owing money. This is only one issue I had with the school. If you would like the full story go to If you have had problems, are having problems or know someone that has/is please contact via the blog site. You can also email me at [email protected]. I urge you to contact me as I am working with others to put a stop to Ashford’s fraudulent practices.

Jul 5, 2013

I have had no problems with Ashford since I began over a year ago, they have the same cost as most other universities. It cost money to go to any college and most community colleges are only four year colleges, if you already have an AA then start ashford if you do not go to a community college.

Jul 22, 2013

I had a similar situation myself. I was ONE credit away from graduation when they decided to inform me that I was out of Fin Aid. They only gave me 4 weeks to resolve it. I had to dispute this for over a year. I finally took classes through FEMA and transferred the credits (Free) over to Ashford for graduation. After that, they told me I’d owe an extra $1900 because they refund my Pell Grant back because I complete my classes too quick. Who’s fault is that? Does that make any sense. So, I can’t get transcripts until I pay them $1900. It just never ends. Mind you - this is the super short version of my story.

Askale Dama
Jul 30, 2013

Ashford a bad business model gone wild. The organization populated by market driven profit seeker with very little academic brilliance and value for education. These folks can sell other products like pet supplies but they don’t belong in the field of education. Poor folks to stay away from Ashford and its near illegal market tricks and fake education that designed to milk federally supported unprepared students. Here is an outfit that lacks ethics, moral and academic value in the business of education others while itself packed by uneducated people. Public agencies have the responsibility to protect the unsuspecting public.

Tracey Rounds
Aug 7, 2013

Ashford University
I was told by my financial servicews advisor that I was required to pay $1,857.00 in addition to my graduation fee before my degree would be rewarded and my transcripts would be released. According to my records on file with Ashford everything was paid in full. Even so, Ashford refused to award my degree until I paid $1,857.00. I paid this after disputing it several times in order to apply for employment opportunities in the field.

After having little luck finding decent employment with this degree, I returned to work toward my masters in business administration. I ended up dropping out of the program due to time constraints. Ashford then billed me $3,510. for the one course I dropped. Additionally, they are refusing to release my undergraduate transcripts to other schools or places of potential employment. My undergraduate degree has been paid in full and then some, yet Ashford claims it is tied to my graduate studies.

This has greatly burdened my life and future. I am a single parent who worked full time while pursuing my degree. It took several years to accomplish and was very expensive. Worse or all, no one has been able to help me find a way to hold Ashford accountable and require them to release my undergraduate transcripts upon request.

I have contacted the Service Center for Loans, the NYS department of education and FASFA. All of which have told me to take it up with my school. Of course, this has not been a solution. Ashford continues to refuse my requests to release my transcripts.

I have been told by other universities that this is highly illegal yet I have found no means of correcting this situation.

If anyone has any information that can help me I would greatly appreciate it!

Diane Worm
Nov 14, 2013

I too have had problems with Ashford. I enrolled in 2010, to withdrawing September of 2012, for them mishandling of Student loans, and lying to me constantly, and them never receiving there Western Accreditation. They told me I owed 1,429, and I would have to make payments, I tried to fight them on that to no advail. I reported them to Iowa AG, abd did their investigation, at the of all that Ashford continued to lie even to them, in the end the AG, suggested I get an attorney. Now, Ashford has turned me over to an outside ccollection company who says I am in default,how can you be in default if your making payments? I hate Ashford, they have ruined my college experience. I am 55- years old, and all I wanted was a college education, so I could better my life. Now, I cannot continue because Ashford is holding my Official transcripts. And while attending Ashford I maintained a 3.5 GPA for the full two years while in school. I think it is wrong that Ashford is allowed to screw so many people. Now I have to start paying back the Department of Education loans, and I never received a degree. How fair is that.

Ann Lamp
Feb 28, 2014

Let me just say that anyone who knows that they don’t have the writing or reading skills to attend college should see red flags go up when they get high grades while taking online college courses in the first place. There are a bunch of older people and military folks getting suckered into attending that place and it is not for the right reasons (otherwise they would have enough sense to attend a real college). I know firsthand what goes on behind the scenes with instructors who don’t grade (they just give all As to get good student evals) and students near retirement who even admit that they don’t think they will have to pay the loans back (they think they can get a piece of paper and then retire and not pay back the money borrowed). It is asinine the way that people are falling for this fake school and pretty soon employers will catch onto the fact that they are hiring a bunch of people who can barely read and write (and who never should have been allowed to graduate). What that means is that the degree will be worthless once word gets around that this is just a diploma mill. The only legitimate students and degrees are those at the on-ground part of this so-called university (which is just a big business pretending to be a college of some sort). To anyone who is foolish enough to enroll, you deserve to be ripped off!

Mar 19, 2014

This school is a scam!!!! Their only interested in your grants and student loans. Way before it was time for me to pay for a class I tried to cancel and the advisor kept it on my record without my permission and not only did it mess with my grants and loans but my GPA also.


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