Shaun Dunn is an expert 3-D designer whose images look so real you want to pluck them off the screen — the very sort Hollywood studios Disney and Pixar might pay an artist big money to create.

Or so Dunn believed when he was a top student at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, whose ads say graduates “are some of the most successful and sought-after professionals in art and design today.” Dunn earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial design and stayed, at the school’s urging, he said, for his master’s in animation and visual effects. He graduated in May.

Today he’s bankrupt. He owes $431,607 in student loans and hasn’t gotten a job. His mother co-signed one student loan for his undergraduate studies in 2004 and remains on the hook for four subsequent loans. They barely speak now.