Shaun Joyce used to sit at his desk at The Art Institute of Charlotte in North Carolina, on edge. That's because a staff member could burst into his classroom at any moment and lead him on the "walk of death."
That was when students would be summoned to the for-profit school's financial aid office and told they'd "run out" of loans, Joyce said. Then the student would be informed that he or she needed to borrow more money immediately, or else leave the school.
"You never knew if you were coming back," Joyce, now 29, said.
On his way to pursuing his bachelor's degree in web design and interactive media at the Art Institute, a former unit of Education Management Corp., which was partially owned by Goldman Sachs at the time, Joyce received such an ultimatum. At one point, there were some 50 Art Institute campuses in operation.
Scared the school would not allow him to complete his degree, he signed up for another loan. But, realizing how unaffordable the school was becoming, he also decided to leave the program after two years instead of the four years he'd planned on.
The tab for his two-year associate's degree is nearly $90,000.
"I switched down to an associate's degree. Why is it this expensive?" he recalled telling the Art Institute staff at the time. "'I'm paying more than what was quoted to me for a bachelor's degree.'"