Category Archives: Legal

FTC gives online high schools a failing grade

-by Truman Lewis

Little more than diploma mills, FTC says.

Just about every high school kid would like to cut class and study at home, which usually translates to sleeping, texting, and gaming. But that doesn’t mean that online “high schools” offer anything of value.

In fact, the Federal Trade Commission says two online high schools are little more than diploma mills that mislead consumers into thinking they can get a legitimate diploma or GED for as little as $135.

“The defendants took advantage of people who wanted a high school diploma,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If a company says you can get a diploma in no time at all or by simply taking an online test, it’s almost certainly a scam.”

In its federal court complaints, the FTC alleges that the “schools” mislead consumers about their legitimacy, using names like West Madison Falls High School, Columbia Northern High School, Stafford High School, and many others.

Documents filed by the FTC in both cases allege that the operations bought a number of website names designed to look like legitimate online high schools and use deceptive metatags with terms like “GED” and “GED online” to bring the bogus sites higher in search rankings. Once consumers arrive at the schools’ sites, they are met with messages that imply that the diplomas offered by the defendants are equivalent to an actual high school diploma.

According to the FTC documents, the “courses” amount to four untimed, unmonitored multiple-choice tests, requiring that students answer 70 percent of each test correctly.

The defendants also mislead consumers with statements about membership in accrediting bodies that do not exist and are creations of the defendants themselves, according to the FTC’s complaints.

Feds create unit to police for-profit colleges

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-official collegiate sportswear of scamU!!!!

-by Mark Huffman

“The problems students have had with some for-profit school are well documented. Remember Corinthian College?

You don’t have to have a long memory. In September 2014 the U.S. government sued the for-profit college for what it called an illegal predatory lending scheme.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) charged that Corinthian lured tens of thousands of students to take out private loans to cover expensive tuition costs by advertising bogus job prospects and career services. To make matters worse, CFPB said Corinthian then used illegal debt collection tactics to strong-arm students into paying back those loans while still in school.

Before it declared bankruptcy and closed less than a year later, thousands of students had borrowed huge sums to attend, with nothing to show for it.

Proactive move
Now, the Department of Education wants to make sure potential train wrecks like Corinthian cross its radar screen before consumers have been harmed. It has announced creation of a Student Aid Enforcement Unit to respond more quickly and efficiently at the first suggestions of trouble.

“When Americans invest their time, money and effort to gain new skills, they have a right to expect they’ll actually get an education that leads to a better life for them and their families,” Acting Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a release. “When that doesn’t happen we all pay the price. So let me be clear: schools looking to cheat students and taxpayers will be held accountable.”

To head up the unit, Robert Kaye is coming over from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), where he was a top enforcement attorney.

Four divisions
The new unit will have four divisions that will perform special roles. The Investigations Group will be the early warning system, on the lookout for potential misconduct or high-risk activity among higher education institutions so that it can protect federal funding.

The Borrower Defense Group will provide legal support, It will analyze claims and make injury determinations.

The Administrative Actions And Appeals Service Group will impose administrative actions, such as suspending an institution and levying a fine. It will also try to resolve appeals by program participants.

The Clery Group will make sure for-profit colleges comply with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, requiring colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid programs to disclose campus crime statistics and security information.”

Feds sue DeVry University, charging its ads were deceptive

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Promises that students would find jobs in their field didn’t pan out, FTC suit alleges

DeVry University is the latest for-profit college to run afoul of regulators. The Federal Trade Commission has sued DeVry, alleging that its advertisements deceived consumers about the likelihood that students would find jobs in their fields of study and would earn more than those graduating with bachelor’s degrees from other colleges or universities. DeVry said it will “vigorously fight” the complaint.

“Millions of Americans look to higher education for training that will lead to meaningful employment and good pay,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “Educational institutions like DeVry owe prospective students the truth about their graduates’ success finding employment in their field of study and the income they can earn.”

In its complaint, the FTC says DeVry claims that 90% of graduates landed jobs in their field within six months — a claim the feds say is deceptive. The suit also alleges DeVry’s claim that its graduates had 15% higher average incomes one year after graduation than the graduates of all other colleges or universities was deceptive.

Melanie of Suamico, Wisconsin, recently recounted her experience with DeVry in a ConsumerAffairs review.

“When I graduated in 2010 with a computer bachelor’s degree I was excited to get my job and start my career. Well I was fooled,” she said. “I got no help from the school (even though I asked for help), I put in hundreds of resumes/apps on my own and got nothing. It is almost like the companies look at the degree that says DeVry on it and they run the opposite direction. I was thinking that I was doing something wrong, but the only thing I did wrong was trust that DeVry would help me get a job.”

DeVry says it will “vigorously fight” the charges. “DeVry University measured the employment and earnings results of its graduates in a sound, rational and transparent basis,” the company said in a prepared statement.

“DeVry Group believes that the FTC’s complaint – filed 40 years after DeVry University began publishing accurate graduate employment statistics – is without a valid legal basis. In addition, the FTC’s complaint contains anecdotal examples that exaggerate the allegations but do not prove them,” DeVry said. “DeVry University measures the employment and earnings results of its graduates on a sound, rational and transparent basis, and has published these results in a consistent manner over the years to provide students meaningful information.”

The FTC’s suit notes that a DeVry television ad showed people in business attire hanging hundreds of “offer letters” on a wall, with a voiceover that said all of the offer letters seen came from just the last year – followed by the 90% claim. The complaint alleges that DeVry counted numerous graduates as working “in their field” when they were not.

That might sound familiar to Gary of Wappingers Falls, N.Y., who said that despite getting his degree and going $62,000 in debt, he has been unable to find a job.

“When I joined the college they stated that they had a 92% placement for graduates within 6 months in their field of study,” he said. “If I could trade my worthless degree for satisfaction of my student debts, I would do it in heartbeat.”

“The college was no help in setting me up with any interviews, they only looked at my resume and made suggestions. I have been on my own since I graduated and have had no luck,” Gary added. “I currently work as a courier to pay my bills, which I could have done without a college degree.”

DOE action

In a related action, the U.S. Department of Education is also taking action against DeVry for its marketing practices. It is providing notice to DeVry that it will be requiring the institution both to stop certain advertising regarding the post-graduation employment outcomes of its students and to take additional steps to ensure that DeVry can substantiate the truthfulness of its post-graduation employment outcomes.

“As required by the law and expected by the public, institutions need to be accurate in their marketing and recruiting to prospective students. And we confirm this truthfulness of advertisements through the backup information schools provide upon request,” said Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. “The Department and the FTC’s related announcements today are the result of much collaboration and cooperation. We are grateful to our partners at the FTC for their hard work and dedication on this matter.”