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Out of Work Alumna Sues Alma Mater for Tuition and Damages

A college education is supposed to be the gateway to a better career. So, if that new career doesn't happen immediately out of the gate, can you hold that college responsible for failing in its duties? One former student is determined to find out: Trina Thompson, alumna of Monroe College in New York, is suing the school for $72,000 on the grounds that she hasn't found a job after earning her business administration degree... three months ago.

According to CNN, Thompson filed suit with the school on July 24th at the Bronx Supreme Court. Her reasoning? In her own words: "[Monroe College's] Office of Career Advancement did not help me with a full-time job placement. I am also suing them because of the stress I have been going through." Thompson claims that, despite sending out numerous cover letters and resumes, only two positions have contacted her back and with little effect; she attributes this to the school's career center not trying hard enough on their part to encourage communication between students and clients, and to the school playing favorites with higher-achieving students than Thompson and her own 2.7 GPA showing. In turn, she is seeking reimbursement for her four years of tuition -- totaling $70,000 -- plus $2,000 as compensation for the stress and heartache associated with her three months of fruitless job hunting.

But is this fair? Can Monroe College truly be held responsible for failing to find Thompson a suitable career by the end of her graduation summer? In this case, her case seems to be on thin ice.

Ideally, a college degree is a one-way ticket to a dream career -- but lately, the economy has said otherwise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average duration of unemployment as of June 2009 is 24.5 weeks: that's over six months. More than fifty percent of citizens collecting unemployment found themselves without jobs for over three months. In comparison, unfortunately, Thompson's situation is not so unusual. In fact, today many long-time professionals with college degrees are going back to school to pick up more marketable skills and stay ahead of the recent rise in unemployment.

Monroe College released an official statement that gives a definite nod to the current tenuous career climate, stating that, "while it is clear that no college, especially in this economy, can guarantee employment, Monroe College remains committed to working with all its students, including Ms. Thompson, who graduated only three months ago, to prepare them for careers and to support them during their job search." Thompson, however, remains unmoved and is even encouraging other students in similar situations to sue their schools as well. "It doesn't make any sense," she says. "They went to school for four years, and then they come out working at McDonald's and Payless." It's a valid concern, to be sure. But is Monroe College the culprit, or the scapegoat? It's in the court's hands, now.

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