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Lost Your Job? Sue Your Alma Mater

What happens if you spend $70,000 to earn a college degree and then you can't find a job?
You could sue your alma mater. That's what Trina Thompson, a 2009 graduate of Monroe College in the Bronx decided to do. The 27-year-old business major, who graduated with a 2.7 GPA, blames the school for not providing her with leads and career advice.

Thompson specifically alleges that the college's career center hasn't done enough to help her land a job:

"They're supposed to say, 'I got this student, her attendance is good, her GPA is all right -- can you interview this person? They're not doing that."
It would be easy to dismiss this lawsuit, which Thompson filed herself, as junk litigation. In the past, educational malpractice cases have bombed in courtrooms.

Colleges and universities, however, should be seriously thinking about whether they can defend the prices they are charging and the outcomes they are producing. It's only a matter of time before a consumer revolution sets its sights on the insular world of higher education.

That was the take-home message of an essay this week in The Chronicle of Higher Education that Peter F. Lake, who is director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law, wrote.

Here's a snippet of what he said:

Automobile makers gave little to no thought to safety until Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed brought attention to traffic safety. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring gave rise to sweeping legislation for the protection of the environment. The plight to migrant workers was invisible to many Americans before Cesar Chavez virtually invented the idea of morally responsible food. A consumer revolution in each of those industries preceded major legal reformation and vastly increased accountability.
College may be able to laugh off Thompson's lawsuit, but I expect that they won't be able to chuckle much longer.

Bronx courthouse image by Peterkreder. CC 2.0.

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