Former student claims Waynesburg University blocked her from completing degree

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A former graduate student is suing Waynesburg University, saying faculty intentionally kept her from completing her degree program on time in order to continue collecting tuition.

The university advertised the doctor of nursing practice program as a three-year, part-time course of study, but plaintiff Tracy Pasek, 48, of Level Green says her adviser blocked her from finishing so she would have to stay enrolled.

Mrs. Pasek enrolled in January 2009 while she was working as an advanced practice nurse at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

According to the lawsuit filed Monday in Allegheny Common Pleas Court, an adviser who led a committee responsible for approving a required research project canceled meetings and prevented other committee members from helping Mrs. Pasek. The adviser, who is not named as a defendant, gave Ms. Pasek an incomplete in one course but signed her up anyway for the next course in the sequence, allowing the university to collect tuition "on a course for which no services could possibly have been rendered," according to the complaint filed by Pittsburgh attorney Nicholas A. Miller of Elliott & Davis.

Mrs. Pasek subsequently was enrolled in a one-credit "graduate advisement" course meant to keep students enrolled while finishing their required "Capstone" research project, according to the suit.

"Nefariously, by forcing Pasek to stay enrolled at Waynesburg longer and to take unnecessary courses while attempting to meet the arbitrary standards for her Capstone Project ... Waynesburg was benefitting by charging fees for the course," Mr. Miller wrote in the complaint.

Mrs. Pasek said she withdrew from Waynesburg after spending three years and $30,000 on tuition at Waynesburg. She began a fresh program of studies at Robert Morris University, where she remains a student.

"There were many things that were deterrents to me moving forward" at Waynesburg, Mrs. Pasek said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "It was an entire collection of events that just really made it unbearable for me to stay."

Robin King, senior vice president for enrollment and university relations, said Tuesday that Waynesburg had not yet received formal notice of the lawsuit and that she could not comment on it.

Mrs. Pasek's suit claims breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation and violations of unfair trade practices and consumer protection law. In it, Mr. Miller said he believes numerous other unnamed students also are being kept from receiving their degrees, even though they met their academic requirements.

Waynesburg University is a nonprofit private school with satellite campuses in Southpointe, Monroeville and the North Hills.

education - neigh_washington

Tracie Mauriello: tmauriello@post-gazette.com or 703-996-9292.


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