Risky career move: Suing your alma mater

Trina Thompson says Monroe College promised her a job and didn't deliver. Don't laugh: She might have a point

Published August 5, 2009 3:27PM (EDT)

The temptation to mock Trina Thompson, a recent Monroe College graduate who is suing her alma mater for its failure to successfully help her obtain a job, seems irresistible. She wants $70,000 in tuition returned to her and an additional $2,000 for the emotional stress incurred by an unsuccessful three-month job search. You can almost hear the sound of the Internet rolling its eyes.

At the Atlantic Business Channel, Daniel Indiviglio tells us that "this story illuminates a larger problem in the generation of instant gratification." Others are less kind. The suit is "completely without merit," declares Monroe, and the world seems inclined to agree, with a few none-too-subtle jabs at her 2.7 GPA poked in for extra measure.

I don't think suing your college for failing to land you a job during a brutal recession is a very smart idea -- it's certainly not a particularly intelligent way to get the attention of prospective employers. But I also think that Monroe College is reaping what it has sown. If you've ridden the subway in the New York metropolitan area, you've seen advertisements for Monroe -- it is the paradigimatic "subway school," promising a direct correlation between enrollment and job placement to anyone or everyone unhappy with their current circumstances while getting from point A to point B. Or, as the tag line to video advertisements that can be found on the Monroe College Web site proudly boast, Monroe is "as real as real world education gets."

I've always thought there is something sleazy about that subway hard sell -- Monroe's business model is to extract as much cash as it can from people desperate to claw their way up the economic ladder, and they do so by making an explicit promise that a Monroe diploma  equals guaranteed career advancement. It's not surprising at all that someone decided to call them on it, no matter what the merits of the individual case.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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