A USC graduate student was expelled from a Russian study abroad program after USC took more than a year to send the student's tuition.
The student, 35-year-old veteran William Brown, was first threatened with expulsion on Feb. 13, 2020, by Irina Kratko, the academic director of the master of international business program at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow.
At the time, the HSE had not received Brown's tuition — which consisted of veterans' educational benefits — from USC, so Kratko told Brown he needed to pay the $7,000 out of his own pocket within a week.
“The [Darla Moore School of Business] tried working it out. I’m not sure what communication there was between the two parties because then, immediately ... the week was up, boom, I was expelled," Brown said.
Brown was expelled from the HSE in February because he could not pay the tuition himself. He had one month to leave Russia, as his student visa was canceled. COVID-19 hit the country in early March, so Brown couldn’t fly home to America. He was stranded in Armenia for a month with a friend before reaching the U.S.
Brown served in the U.S. Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq in 2008. Because of his service, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offered to pay for two years of schooling. Brown spent one year at USC for the first part of his master's of international business degree. He planned to spend his second year in Moscow.
Because Brown was expelled, he lost a year of VA benefits for his education.
The associate registrar for veterans enrollment services at USC, Chris Mobley, said his office received Brown’s tuition from the VA and sent the money to the Darla Moore School of Business.
“The real problem just came from getting it from Darla Moore, basically, to HSE and Russia,” Mobley said.
The Daily Gamecock reached out to Angel Earle, the former managing director of the master of international business program who dealt with Brown's tuition. Earle declined to make a statement.
Kendall Roth, senior associate dean of international programs and partnerships for the Darla Moore School of Business, said the university was working since last February — when Brown was threatened with expulsion — to pay HSE.
“It's just been a lot of challenges with respect to being able to make it happen,” Roth said.
The Internal Revenue Service states “foreign entities" must complete a W-8BEN-E form for the transfer of money to occur. Roth said USC submitted the form to HSE to fill out, but as of Feb. 2, HSE had “yet to complete that form."
Even though HSE had not completed the form, Roth said USC sent the money to HSE on Jan. 28, 2021.
Brown said it was "a slap in the face" to realize HSE got away with expelling him and still received his tuition.
"The school still gets to keep their prestige, they still get their nice haircut, they still get the money. And USC comes away [looking like a] coward ... with a black eye." Brown said.
Roth said communication with the Higher School of Economics had always been complicated, as relations between the U.S. and Russia are “not very harmonious.”
The Daily Gamecock reached out to Kratko and the administration at HSE over email three times but received no response.
Brown said he hoped the master of international business program at Darla Moore would've done more about the situation.
"Everyone thought it was unjust, but everybody felt that nothing could be done. And to some degree, that's proved to be true — not a lot has been done about it," Brown said.
Brown has been accepted into USC's School of Law for fall 2021, but will be taking out loans to attend because he lost his year of veterans benefits.
"I didn't get to build the life that I wanted in Moscow, and I've been rebuilding my life in Columbia, South Carolina, as opposed to in another place in the world that I also really like," Brown said. "It put a damper on the things I wanted to do."