A petition urging the Washington Post Company to make changes at its lucrative Kaplan University, or shut it down, has garnered more than 7,000 signatures.
The petition, which appears at Change.org, an online petitioning platform, has drawn more than 5,000 signatures today alone, and the number is rising rapidly.
Each signature generates an e-mail message to Donald E. Graham, chairman of the Washington Post Company, and several other Post officials. The messages ask them to stop admissions to the for-profit university until it develops an "independent, third-party" system to investigate student complaints.
The petition was posted on Change.org a little over a week ago, and was started by a group of about 25 people who describe themselves as disaffected former Kaplan students.
The leader of the group, 40-year-old Shannon Croteau, said she was swindled by the university when she enrolled in its paralegal bachelor's-degree program. Ms. Croteau said the company had stuck her with $30,000 in debt for a loan she never took out, and refused to offer her any more financial aid, claiming it had "run out." She later discovered that her program had actually been an associate-degree program that isn't accredited in her home state of New Hampshire.
A spokeswoman for Change.org, Carol Scott, said there was no way to determine how many of the petition's signers were students. The Washington Post Company did not immediately return a call seeking comment.