Rebekah Hall has had more than her fill of Laureate. After three years of online study at Walden University, the 34-year-old San Diego resident is quitting, even though she owes $75,000 for loans she took out for training she said the school promised would lead to a Ph.D. in forensic psychology, a claim Hall says was oversold.
Walden has offered a Ph.D. degree in psychology with a specialization in forensic psychology since the fall of 2011, according to Laureate spokeswoman Tamara Chumley. Chumley said in an email to CNBC that as indicated on its website, this program does not lead to licensure, and therefore it is not intended to lead to a career in treating patients. "This program leads to possible careers as a researcher or consultant in law enforcement, government, education and nonprofit sectors. To be sure our prospective and new students are fully aware of this program's purpose at the time of enrollment, we require all new students to acknowledge in writing their understanding that this program does not lead to licensure," the spokeswoman said.
Hall said she struggled to reach faculty members and advisors she didn't regularly meet in person. When she did hear back, it was often in the form of condescending criticism or documents running hundreds of pages long, she said.
Chumley said, "Looking at national research, the receipt of a doctoral degree can be a long and rigorous process. At Walden, we are committed to providing the support necessary for our students to be successful."
Hall said she's jobless and sleeping on a friend's couch after losing her apartment and selling her car, motorcycle and most of her other possessions.
"This school's a joke," Hall said. "The degree wouldn't even be useful if I did end up getting it. At this rate, I would not be able to graduate, due to the debt, and I have no idea what to do."
— By Gary Gately, special to CNBC.com
Correction: One of Laureate's Chilean schools had a loss of accreditation last year. An earlier version misstated the school's situation.