At 28, Michael Adorno got fed up with his low-wage job at a pizzeria in Richmond Hill, Georgia, and decided to go to college. Adorno attended the for-profit Everest College, part of Corinthian Colleges Inc., in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from 2010 to 2012, and he received an associate degree in network administration.
Three years later Adorno is unemployed and was even rejected from a job at Best Buy. Adorno belongs to a group called the Corinthian 100, alumni of Corinthian Colleges who refuse to pay back their student loans and claim they were defrauded by Corinthian. Like other members of the group, he claims he got a subpar education and was left with massive debt and no suitable job.
Before 2014, Corinthian Colleges Inc. was a network of more than 100 schools and one of the largest for-profit college companies in the U.S. But numerous investigations and lawsuits alleging wrongdoing against the company rapidly decreased its size. In July, an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education forced Corinthian to sell 85 of its schools and close another 12.
As the first person in his family to attend college, Adorno was excited, but he admittedly didn’t know a lot about higher education and financial decisions. “I felt especially proud to take this first step forward, because I thought maybe it would be a big role-model experience for myself, and to set that example for my friends and my brother,” Adorno told Business Insider.
He said that he relied on the college to give him accurate information about financial aid, something he said did not happen. “It was such a rushed experience,” Adorno said. “My student adviser, she was a great salesman. I don’t understand why she wasn’t selling cars or something else.”
He said his adviser promised that he would not be on the hook for student loan payments until after he graduated. But he said that he started getting requests for payment on his loans while still at Everest. Still, amid a rushed process and some confusion, Adorno pushed ahead. “I was just ready—I was just ready, ready, ready, to pull the trigger on something that was going to lead me to a more prosperous future with a better career, like I said, instead of delivering pizzas,” he said.
When Adorno got to Everest, he said, he was immediately disappointed. He said Everest sold him on the promise that he’d get hands-on experiences with emerging technologies that would prepare him for high-caliber IT positions. But Adorno ended up taking a lot of unnecessary gen-ed classes such as literature and oral communications, he said.
And when Adorno, who said he has had a lifelong interest in computer systems, finally got into the core classes of the degree program, he said he was shocked by the outdated technologies offered at Everest. “I mean, I was learning how to work with operating systems that were 10, 15 years old. … Why, why on earth was I being taught on systems that were already obsolete, outdated?” he said.
Adorno told Business Insider that one of the most compelling reasons he attended Everest was its pledge to provide lifetime career placement services. But he quickly realized he couldn’t find work in an IT department, he said. The only job that Adorno said Everest could get him was working in a call center administered by Xerox. The role was a customer-service position that didn’t require a college degree.
He did not accept that job.
He looked into attending Colorado Technical University to pursue a bachelor’s degree, but when he went there he discovered some of his classes didn’t transfer. He’d have to incur even more debt, which he said would “again lead me to keep plunging down the hole.” Adorno eventually moved back to Georgia, where he took a job as an assistant manager at a Little Caesars. He said he was demoralized after attending Everest and didn’t think he had any other options.
“I had to kind of pull myself back together and stop chasing that dream,” Adorno said, “because there was no call-backs when I started looking into local technical recruiters. I wasn’t getting any calls back with the info on my résumé having gone to Everest. I almost felt that, because I had that on my résumé, that’s why they might not be calling me, because they might have intimate knowledge of their practices.”
Now, at 33, Adorno has moved in with his mom, in Alexandria, Virginia, and is unemployed, but he said he is using the time to find an entry-level position in IT in or around Washington, D.C. He voiced frustration at getting rejected from a job with the Geek Squad at Best Buy. He is trying to remain upbeat, though he has no serious job leads. “Again, I feel a lot of it boils down to the fact that they are looking at the whole Everest thing,” he said.
He spoke about the $37,000 of student-loan debt that he’s been deferring for the past three years. He and the other members of the Corinthian 100 are trying to get the Department of Education to discharge that debt. “What I expect to see is a full discharge of these loans so that I can reclaim a better chance at higher education,” he said. “I still want to be able to go back to school.”
We reached out to a representative for Corinthian for comment on Adorno’s experience, and we will update this post if we hear back. Previously, the company told us in a statement that “career colleges like Corinthian play an important role in the U.S. education system and serve a need that would otherwise be unmet.”
Correction: The headline originally said that Adorno is suing Corinthian Colleges. He is refusing to pay his loans back.