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Computer School Training Fails To Compute For Durham Woman

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DURHAM, N.C. — With all the layoffs in the Triangle, a lot of people are going back to school to try to tune up their skills. Many of those people are ending up stuck paying for training they never received.

Last month, Five On Your Side reported Solid Computer Decisions was going bankrupt.

Five On Your Side has also received complaints against a company called MCJ that went out of business after accepting thousands of dollars in loan money that students still have to pay back.

Durham resident Ruth Powell became interested in computerswhen she was laid off from her job last year. That interest led her to pursue a new career in computers.

An online ad from Durham-based MCJ Solutions caught her eye.

"I started seeing these ads about computer schools. That's my niche," Powell said.

Powell visited the school last August and got a brochure advertising she could earn $65,000 a year.

According to Powell, "the dollar signs that they showed me, what I would be able to make once completing this course, looked good. So, it was like OK, this is what you need to do. You need to do this now."

Powell said an MCJ representative convinced her to apply for a $7,500 tuition loan from Sallie Mae, saying she could change her mind about the training without any problems.

After talking to a career counselor, Powell realized she did not have the skills for the course and informed the school by certified letter.

Powell was about to cancel the loan when she found out Sallie Mae aleady sent a check to MCJ.

Then Sallie Mae started sending bills to Powell.

"It's just been a headache. It's just been a mess," she said.

MCJ promised to take care of it, but after six months, Sallie Mae was demanding payment.

"They were going to garnish my wages. They were going to find out if I owned any property. They were going to put a lien on my property. I was dealing with the government now, and time is running out. I freaked," Powell said.

Then Powell called Five on Your Side.

About the same time, MCJ shut down, leaving students with tens of thousands of dollars in loans for training they could not get.

Sallie Mae told Powell she still had to pay back the money.

When Five On Your Side called, representatives said since Powell never attended classes they would forgive the $7,500 loan.

Soon after, Powell received confirmation from Sallie Mae.

"Paid in full. When I got this I went 'Yes,'" Powell said with a laugh.

The North Carolina attorney general's office is investigating MCJ. State officials are also working with Sallie Mae and other lending institutions to get them to change their policy and pay schools as students take classes instead of in one lump sum.