Tampa man 'living nightmare' after enrolling at for-profit school a decade ago

TAMPA, Fla. - Going to college is supposed to be that life-changing, career-starting moment that you look back on with pride.

But for some bay area graduates, they look back and only see a mountain of debt, a worthless degree, and a headache they can't kick.

Almost a decade after earning his bachelor's degree in Internet Technology, Daniel Mauldin is now living a life of regret.

"It changes everything for my life," he said.

His future wife, Dr. Sarra Conn is livid.

"I am amazingly mad about this whole situation," she said.

Mauldin's nightmare began in the early 2000's, when he enrolled at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Tampa.

It's one of hundreds of for-profit colleges around the country -- the same type of schools that have been in the news a lot lately for aggressive and deceptive tactics to enroll as many students as possible to maximize profits.

Mauldin took out roughly 60-grand in student loans that, with interest over the last decade, ballooned to more than 160-grand.

"It was thrown out at me, yeah we're accredited. We are fully accredited is what they would say, not really talking about the difference between nationally accredited and regionally accredited," he said.

And there's a big difference.

IADT's flashy brochure states that it is a nationally accredited school.

But here's something all students should know: state universities and community colleges are regionally accredited.

Credits earned at nationally accredited schools typically won't transfer, and sometimes degrees earned there aren't even recognized by employers.

Mauldin found out the hard way when he tried enrolling at USF for another degree.

"They looked and they're like 'no, no, no, none of your credits are transferrable. So you would have to just start all over -- the whole bachelor's degree'," Mauldin said.

Now he's stuck with massive monthly student loan payments -- $1,600 a month -- more than his housing payment.

Student loan attorney Christie Arkovich said every week she meets new clients getting duped into taking out high interest loans for an investment they think will pay off in the end.

"Once you're in that hole, there's virtually no way of digging yourself back out," she said. "They'll never catch-up. The degree is worthless so they're never going to get the type of job with the type of income to pay back the money."

IADT eventually changed its name to Sanford-Brown, but the company recently announced the closure of all its campuses.

Mauldin is now taking his debt to bankruptcy court, after his attorney filed a lawsuit this week, going after the loan servicer, Navient, to try to get some relief.

United States Representative Kathy Castor is trying to give these students -- victims -- a voice.

"Consumers and students should beware of online and for-profit colleges that use deceptive practices to prey on our neighbors," she said in a statement. "These fraudsters don't play by the rules. I am working to ensure our local neighbors are protected from the hype and harm of these fraudulent and for-profit schools and to relieve students from crushing debt."

Currently that crushing debt is preventing Mauldin from walking down the aisle.

"It's a hard situation to be in, to finally find someone that you want to spend the rest of your life with and you can't because of some BS reason," Conn said.

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