Former Drexel University student Erin McGoff was enjoying her life post-graduation, pursuing her journalistic dreams in the film industry in Washington, D.C. and leaving behind her Drexel days — at least that’s what she thought.
She was shocked to find out that Drexel was suing her for failing to pay a bill that was over two years old that she had no idea existed.
Twenty-two-year-old McGoff was informed by the university that she owes $4,120 for a bill she allegedly never paid, which includes a 1 percent interest fee for every month it wasn’t paid, in addition to an extra $7,776 in legal fees — all over a bill she said she would have paid if she had known about it.
“Anyone who know me knows I’m not someone who avoids paying bills, especially bills with that high of an interest rate,” she said. “It’s unorganized, it’s slimy, it’s corrupt. There’s something going on here that really just rubs me the wrong way.”
McGoff attended Drexel during her freshman year in 2013-14, but transferred to American University in 2015 after realizing that the university wasn’t the proper fit for her.
“From the moment I stepped on campus, I felt weird. I liked the professors and I made good friends there, but I kept hearing people around me talking about the ‘Drexel shaft,’ talking about how they were getting screwed over by Drexel. Everybody kind of brushed it off saying ‘Oh, well that’s just college,’ but that shouldn’t be college. We are customers paying for a service, which is our education, and we’re paying a lot for it,” she said.
She said she didn’t want to be taken advantage of any longer and after studying abroad at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland, she officially withdrew from Drexel and started the transfer process to American University in Washington, D.C.
She explained how Drexel was helpful throughout the transfer process.
“Drexel totally let me loose — I went through the whole withdrawal process, I went through the entire transfer process, I requested my transcripts,” she explained. “Everything was great. They didn’t say anything that entire time.”
She said that the entire situation could have been avoided if they had mentioned the payment at this time and yet, it was never brought up while she was in the process of transferring.
“It’s very unusual because usually colleges won’t release transcripts if there is an outstanding balance. They never said that to me. I don’t know if it was malicious, but that never happened,” she said, explaining how she had been enrolled into an automatic payment plan at that time.
After receiving Drexel’s help with the transfer process, she then moved on with her studies.
“I never thought about it another day in my life,” she said.
But then she was forced to think about it.
She was happily adjusting to American University when her family received a letter from a collection agency on behalf of Drexel in October 2017. They first dismissed it as a scam since it had been so long since they had heard from the university, but they contacted university officials to ensure that there were not any unpaid balances.
“The next thing we know, we are being sued,” she said, which was shocking considering there had been over two and a half years of silence, even though the university possessed all of her contact information, including her phone number, home address and email address, and could have easily informed her of any issues.
McGoff said their only attempt to contact her consisted of sending one email to her dead Drexel email account.
Although the situation came as a surprise, she decided to comply with the university’s request and wrote a check, but Drexel immediately sent it back without cashing it, claiming that it wasn’t enough — even though it was the full amount plus almost three years of interest. That is when McGoff discovered she would also be expected to pay all the fees associated with the legal costs.
Ultimately, McGoff encountered the very thing that she was trying to avoid from the beginning.
“I left so I wouldn’t get screwed over like this and it still happened to me,” she said.
She says that the worst part is it this was all avoidable, since she was never purposely trying to get out of paying.
“There was no reason for me to not pay that right when it was due. I had the money. I would not purposely wait for one percent interest every month to accumulate,” she said. “The whole thing is really fishy.”
During this time, she tried to contact Drexel again, but they refused talk to her, informing her that she could only be permitted to speak to the university’s lawyer. Drexel still refuses to talk to her.
“It would be really nice if Drexel could just pick up the phone and talk to me, but they are radio silent,” she said.
McGoff is desperate for answers and wants her name cleared from the lawsuit, which she is afraid could potentially impact her future.
“It’s really detrimental to my reputation and it’s traumatizing. I could never picture the university I graduated from — a university with integrity who actually cares about its students instead of treating us like a number — ever doing that,” she said.
Irritated with Drexel’s silence, McGoff turned to social media to alert others of her story. She shared her experience on Facebook and Instagram, repeatedly tagging the Drexel in the posts. While there has been no response from Drexel, the post has received over 2,000 likes, 1,300 shares and about 200 comments on Facebook. Many comments and shares were from students who had similar experiences, which has been reassuring to her.
“It just validates everything. It’s nice to know you’re not alone when you’re battling a big monster like Drexel,” she said. “As a journalist, it’s interesting that we can take cases to social media. If it were 50 years ago, I would be completely powerless because I’m getting sued by an organization that has a lot more money than me.”
McGoff is currently talking to a lawyer and trying to figure out the next steps. While she cannot disclose any particular details at this time, for now, she hopes that her story will continue to spread and inspire others to share their stories.
“I’m just one of many. I can’t take down a whole institution — I’m just one person — but I can probably make a dent,” she said.
However, she emphasized how this problem is not an isolated occurrence, and that the overall landscape of higher-education is tainted.
“Colleges have gotten away with things — and not just Drexel,” she said. “It’s a nationwide issue.”
She urges students everywhere to open up about the injustices they may be facing from their colleges or universities.
“Colleges are very used to getting away with these types of things because they’re powerful and they have a lot of money, but it’s time for students to start standing up for ourselves,” she said. “We’re not just bags of money.”
“Drexel will not comment on Erin McGoff’s financial record. The University typically works with students to come to an agreeable solution. Drexel’s billing and financial obligation policies and procedures are available at this link,” Drexel said in a statement.