Visitor Question

Is a college liable for pressure resulting in mental illness?

Submitted By: N (Lafayette, LA, USA)

In high school, I took an “advanced placement” course for college credit. I failed the course because of the amount of work involved (I made almost 100% on midterm and final exams). When I took the college credit exam, however, I tested out of something like 37 credits in English.

I was immature and very vulnerable when I started college the fall after my 2003 high school graduation. I was pressured by my college-appointed adviser to take honors classes and even a 516 English which was “upper division”/graduate level.

I couldn’t take the pressure and ended up attempting suicide in my dorm. I was in the hospital for medical stabilization, then the mental hospital, and was unable to return for that semester. I lost my scholarship and had to take out a loan for my next semester.

My adviser again told me to take high level and honors courses and I ended up blowing up on my appointed roommate and being asked to leave school. I tried again about a year later and was locked out of a class for being 2 minutes late for a test.

I started throwing up blood in the bathroom and a classmate found me and brought me to the school nurse, who prescribed anti-ulcer medication and I found myself on a downward spiral. I ended up in the mental hospital again. This was in 2005. My federal grant was revoked and the college said I owed them for the semester.

I appealed to the fee committee and they forgave my class fees but said they couldn’t forgive my housing fees. They claim I owe them $3600 for housing and refuse to release my transcript to another school. I have tried appealing the grant and loan but was denied because they said I wasn’t disabled, regardless of my doctor herself sending in paperwork saying I am.

I am now officially disabled due to my mental health and a spinal problem. I’m on SSDI income. I would really like to try a community college or online courses to finally get back to working.

I applied for and was approved for Vocational Rehabilitation (full payment of tuition and fees), but they are unable to help with past debts and can’t get me back into school with my outstanding debts.

Can I sue the college for pressuring me into taking courses that were too stressful for a freshman? I really just want to get past that time in my life. Is there anything I can do to get them to forgive the housing costs? They won’t even accept my doctor’s narrative saying I’m disabled? What can I do? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear N,

Millions of students pass thorough college every year. Many are under intense pressure from parents, schools, and competing students. While your psychological problems are unfortunate, it would be nearly impossible to prove the school is somehow liable.

If there is anyone to blame, you might look toward the doctors who treated you. If they failed to prescribe appropriate medications, or failed to monitor your progress, they may be partially responsible for your mental problems and time spent in mental health facilities.

You would be well-served to attempt to negotiate a payment installment plan with the schools. Ask them to agree to release your transcripts dependent upon your signing an installment agreement for the payment of your dormitory fees. It is likely they will agree to the installment plan, and will do so without charging any interest.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: November 29, 2014

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