For-profit schools feeling legal pressure

One recent suit claims Harris School of Business officials routinely misled students and falsified records

For-profit schools may be a growing trend in the education community, but one new lawsuit seeks to increase the scrutiny on for-profit schools that may be scamming their students.

Kelli J. Amaya, a former administrator at the for-profit Harris School of Business, has filed suit against Harris and its parent company, Premier Education Group, for fraud. Amaya and a group of former employees claim that school officials routinely misled students about job prospects and falsified school records to keep students enrolled in order to collect the more than $10,000 in tuition and grant money the school charged.

Amaya worked for Harris at two different school campuses between 2009 and 2011. In her time there, she told the New York Times in an interview, she saw a number of students that had no business being in school. Yet, she alleges, her superiors told her to push them through to graduation in any way possible.

“I saw students who never should have been there, students with whopping gaps in learning abilities and major psychiatric problems who were just not capable of doing the work,” Amaya said. “The bosses were always like, ‘Stop asking why they’re enrolled, just get them to graduation however you can.’”

The suit also claims that Harris routinely enrolled students into programs that they should not have been eligible for. In one case, a young student who had been convicted of a felony was training to be a pharmacy technician, even though the most widely used pharmacy technician certification excludes anyone with a felony or a drug offense. In another case, a student studying message therapy should have been excluded because of a prior sex crime.

This particular case isn’t the only suit pending against Harris. In one New Jersey case, dozens of Harris students say the school lied about what professional certifications students would qualify for after completing the required coursework. Premier Education Group has also settled similar cases in the past, says the NYT.

For-profit schools are no new phenomenon to legal education experts. An October investigation by the Wall Street Journal found that for-profit law schools are on the rise, even as traditional law schools see decreasing class sizes.

The InfiLaw System, started by Chicago-based Sterling Partners in 2004, targets students whose GPAs or LSAT scores don’t qualify them for admission with the top schools. But InfiLaw’s bar passages and job placements are well below state averages, and InfiLaw has been subject to a number of suits from its own former students as well.

 

For the full New York Times story on Harris, click here.

And for more legal coverage of the education system, check out these recent stories:

New online rating system will help pinpoint good and bad contracts for consumers

ABA calls for reform of legal education system

Law schools implement corporate product development methodologies to produce ‘practice ready’ lawyers

Law school gets innovative with ‘hybrid’ online J.D.

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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