Plaintiff in Study-Abroad Lawsuit Draws Fire From Students

February 20, 2008

A recent Wheaton College graduate whose father is suing the Massachusetts institution over its billing practices for study abroad was sharply criticized by her former classmates at a packed student-government meeting, the Attleboro, Mass., Sun Chronicle reports.

Jennifer Bombasaro-Brady defended the legal argument behind the lawsuit to dozens of students at a meeting on Tuesday, many of whom said they were not persuaded by her explanation, the newspaper reports.

In the suit, James P. Brady, Ms. Bombasaro-Brady’s father, accuses the private liberal-arts college of “unfair and deceptive” billing practices for charging full tuition, plus room and board, for a semester his daughter spent studying in South Africa in 2006. The program, offered by the School for International Training, an outside provider, cost about $17,000, according to the complaint, while Wheaton’s per-semester charges at the time were about $21,440.

Mr. Brady, a lawyer, seeks a declaratory judgment that would upend the longstanding practice at Wheaton, and potentially at other colleges, of charging “home school” tuition for credits earned through programs offered by outside providers.

At Tuesday’s meeting, students challenged Ms. Bombasaro-Brady’s argument that Wheaton had not been sufficiently transparent in its billing practices, saying they had been able to easily find that information on the college’s Web site.

“I don’t think anyone is getting blackmailed to go to Edinburgh or South Africa or Germany,” said Austin Simko, a junior. “It’s a contract that we enter into of our own volition.” —Karin Fischer