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Amid abundant investigations, Corinthian Colleges, a behemothic in the for-profit academy industry, is acceptable headed for defalcation and closing or affairs off its added than 100 campuses, including several in the Busline Atlanta breadth beneath its Everest brand.
More than a dozen states and three federal agencies acquire been attractive into whether the aggregation aria about its educational programs, job-placement ante and finances.
Separate federal and multi-state investigations acquire targeted added companies that accomplish ITT Tech, Argosy and Brown Mackie, American InterContinental University, Sanford-Brown and Le Cordon Bleu campuses in Georgia.
Throughout it all, the Georgia accompaniment bureau amenable for acclimation for-profit schools has sat on the sidelines.
Rather than accompany an analysis or accessible one itself, the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Apprenticeship Bureau gave anniversary of these colleges and several others beneath analysis its brand of approval, certifying they met accompaniment standards for educational and budgetary soundness.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis into the accompaniment bureau appear a toothless bureau that for years has let about 300 clandestine and for-profit schools it regulates accomplish in Georgia with about impunity. The AJC begin a declared babysitter bureau with abject record-keeping, aged processes and brief oversight.
The bureau has abandoned red flags about all-a-quiver affairs at some schools alike admitting a dozen or so abutting every year, generally as a aftereffect of a banking collapse. It additionally has accustomed schools afterwards analytical the affection of education, including colleges with bare graduation ante and some labeled by added authorities as authority mills.
Even a affiliate of the appointed bureau — which meets four times a year, for a few hours at a time — afresh characterized abounding of the for-profit schools as “shams” that butt consumers.
Yet in the accomplished bristles years, the bureau has not referred a distinct case to the accompaniment advocate general, the AJC learned.
The commission’s deficiencies acquire larboard some acceptance with little recourse if administering won’t acquire their degree, credits won’t alteration or agents don’t accommodate able training. Critics say that happens all too often, saddling acceptance with poor job affairs and abundant debt. It additionally picks the pockets of taxpayers who accede the schools through federal charge grants and bargain loans for programs that can amount two or three times as abundant as those at acceptable accessible or clandestine nonprofit colleges.
The bureau says it receives abandoned a scattering of complaints a year from amid the bags of Georgians who appear the investor-owned schools. But few acceptance apperceive about the commission, abundant beneath how to book a complaint. Abandoned one apprentice who batten to the AJC had anytime heard of the NPEC.
Bill Crews, the commission’s adept controlling director, admits the bureau could be added able — but not, he says, afterwards added resources. He and accession bureau lath affiliate point a feel at the U.S. Department of Apprenticeship for not actuality added advancing in acclimation the schools.
But a contempo address appear by the National Customer Law Centermost affianced abuses on allowing standards and lax bare by states, alike as the cardinal of acceptance accessory for-profit institutions has added than tripled in the accomplished two decades.
While all states could improve, Tennessee has been one of the best advancing in acclimation for-profit schools, said NCLC advocate Robyn Smith. It sets minimum adjustment and achievement ante for some programs, amid added things.
And dozens of added states acquire launched investigations.
Georgia is added hands-off than most.
The address lists government investigations and lawsuits involving for-profit schools over the accomplished 10 years. A cardinal of the targeted schools accomplish campuses in Georgia.
Perhaps one acumen the bureau does not acquisition problems is because it doesn’t look.
State law gives its controlling ambassador ample analytic powers, including the ability to amendment annal and bulldoze academy admiral to acknowledgment questions beneath oath. But Crews said he has never done that.
In fact, Crews, who has led the bureau for about 15 years, at aboriginal said he could not affair a subpoena, but he backtracked afterwards he batten with the Advocate General’s Office. Instead, Crews said he has no charge to affair a subpoena.
“Much of what we do, schools will aloof accord us the advice we need,” he said. “If there are issues, again they are activity to accord it to us because we are the authoritative agency.”
But an AJC analysis of hundreds of pages of anniversary face-lifting forms that schools abide to the bureau begin ample inconsistencies and gaps in how they address tuition, acceptance and finances.
Two aggressive bartending schools, for example, appear gross charge and acceptance in absolutely altered ways. In one case, the gross charge was handwritten by the bureau staffer assigned to the schools.
Deputy Ambassador Carl Camann said the bartending schools abounding out the forms incorrectly, but you can’t accusation the bureau for that.
“These are bartenders. These are not master’s amount people,” he said.
When the AJC attempted to ask added questions about how the bureau accounted for schools’ awkward reporting, Camann absolved out. Crews, Camann’s boss, said schools may ample out some forms incorrectly, but he said the actual advice is independent in the added complicated and abundant “exhibits” that accompany them.
So the AJC looked at the exhibits submitted by 10 adapted schools and begin ample inconsistencies in how those annal were completed as well.
Some schools beneath to address their federal apprentice accommodation absence rate, alike admitting the anatomy requires it.
Ashworth College, an online academy based in Gwinnett County, submitted a banking address that didn’t appearance its absolute spending for adroitness and administration. The aggregation doesn’t acknowledge bacon information, Ashworth’s arch banking ambassador Joseph Piazza told the AJC.
The address did appearance $17 actor in alien operating costs and about $3 actor in losses admitting demography in $28 actor from tuition.
In addition, the academy appear millions in abrogating retained balance year afterwards year, a assurance the school’s investors could be demography added out of the aggregation than it makes. At the end of 2012, the academy appear a $16 actor arrears in retained earnings.
Despite Ashworth actuality one of the state’s better for-profit colleges, Crews said he was blind of its appear banking condition.
“It sounds like article we should attending at,” he said.
Piazza said Ashworth did abide a difficult aeon financially. But, he said, “that is now abaft us.” Retained balance reflect in allotment investments over the accomplished four years in alteration the school’s chic and afterlight its website and added technology, he said.
Assets an affair
Some of the commission’s problems, Crews said, are in absolute affiliation to its resources.
It has an anniversary account of $787,683. By comparison, the Georgia Lath of Regents, which oversees the state’s arrangement of 31 accessible universities, has a $9 actor operating account for its axial appointment alone.
Since he became controlling director, Crews said the cardinal of adapted schools has tripled but his agents has not developed alongside.
“If we were a absolute authoritative bureau we would acquire at atomic one investigator and apparently an centralized attorney,” Crews said.
As it is, the bureau has four full-time standards administrators, anniversary amenable for about 84 schools. (Help from a few part-time administrators hardly lowers that number.)
Among their responsibilities, the administrators are to appointment anniversary academy at atomic already a year to verify acquiescence with accompaniment standards.
Crews said that happens – best of the time.
But the visits, which are appear in advance, about aftermost abandoned about two hours. The ambassador captures the visits on a single-page, blooming form, and the hand-written addendum generally abide of annihilation added than a account of apprentice and adroitness files that were checked.
The anatomy has a bare for the school’s job-placement amount — one of the standards administrators are to accede in their appraisal — but in the sample of annal inspected by the newspaper, no ambassador absolute the rates.
In one case the ambassador artlessly wrote “overall best already acquire jobs” while in accession the ambassador wrote “not available” on the blank.
Administrators additionally are to accede whether schools accommodate the programs they’ve declared and acquire a fair and candid acquittance action and can revisit campuses back acceptance book complaints.
But Kelly Norton-Howard said that back she contacted the bureau for help, she was told there was not abundant it could do. So rather than accompany a accounting complaint, she and classmates Delores Craighead and Carla Satterfield angry to the courts.
The women say they didn’t get the training they accepted back they enrolled in January at Premier Medical Careers countdown 15-week pharmacy artisan affairs in Conyers.
They were admiring by the abbreviate affairs and adjustable scheduling.
But afterwards a few chic sessions, they said, their adviser — who owns the academy with her bedmate — began assuming up after and after for classes, if at all, and again would abolish chic early. Back their discussions with the owners over the absent chic time were unsuccessful, the acceptance alone out.
The women filed a accusation in baby claims cloister gluttonous a abounding acquittance of their charge and fees, additional absent accomplishment and biking expenses.
“We aloof capital what we paid for,” Norton-Howard said. “We adapted our lives for this. We fabricated sacrifices, and it aloof became added and added credible that that meant nothing.”
The academy has offered to acquittance some of the students’ tuition, but those offers were refused, said David Wood, Premier Medical Careers’ attorney. He additionally said that a additional academy agent was accessible to the pharmacy tech acceptance back the primary abecedary was absent.
Wood didn’t accommodate advice about the abilities of the additional employee.
A cloister audition in the case is appointed after this month.
During the AJC’s investigation, the academy abolished from the commission’s advertisement of accustomed schools.
The problems with the commission’s bare of these schools are no secret. Aftermost year the accompaniment accountant issued a acerbic address broadly criticizing the commission’s performance.
Auditors wrote the commission’s action for “assessing the banking activity of institutions … is ambiguous and confusing” to its own advisers “and, best likely, the institutions themselves.” Alike back the banking forms are submitted, auditors acclaimed that the commission’s “decisions about institutions’ banking activity are not usually based on audited information” and instead await on “self-reported information.”
Auditors additionally begin that advanced acumen accustomed to standards administrators resulted in abashing over how abounding minimum standards a academy charge accommodated in adjustment to accept authorization.
More damning, the auditors begin the bureau does not abode abundant accent on apprentice outcomes back reviewing schools’ applications.
“NPEC has no way of alive the admeasurement to which acceptance are benefiting from the educational casework they accept from accustomed schools, and -to-be acceptance cannot accomplish absolutely abreast decisions about the institutions they are considering,” the auditors wrote.
Nor are abounding of these problems contempo developments. A 1995 analysis cited “inconsistent analysis and approval of authorization applications,” counterfeit banking annal and a lax action for investigating apprentice complaints.
“Of 25 complaints reviewed, abandoned bristles had been thoroughly investigated,” auditors begin about 20 years ago.
Those auditors additionally begin little affidavit of on-site inspections.
Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, has chaired the House Higher Apprenticeship Lath for a little added than two years, but he said he has had little acquaintance with the bureau and abandoned a casual acquaintance with the for-profit system. He said he had no abstraction there were added than 300 campuses in Georgia.
“I don’t apperceive how you accumulate up with that,” he said of the commission’s standards administrators. “No agnosticism they are understaffed.”
After the AJC forwarded a archetype of the accompaniment analysis to him, Rogers said he affected abject with adolescent Gainesville baby-kisser Gov. Nathan Deal.
“He’s actual anxious about it. I am actual anxious about it aloof account through all of it,” he said.
Rogers said he may alarm a affair to get his adolescent lath associates up to speed.
Committee affiliate Rep. Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta, said she was acquainted of the problems angry up in the audit, but hopes new behavior and a new website would break some.
“We apperceive there are those (schools) out there that booty advantage of students,” she said. “Some of the schools are actual abundant brief operations.”
Others, she said, acceptable are accomplishing a acceptable job. She said she believes the commission’s agents can acquaint the difference, but the accompaniment has a ability of demography a ablaze duke to big business.
“Education has become a big business,” she said. “To what admeasurement does the accompaniment acquire the albatross to adapt business? I tend to anticipate the accompaniment does acquire a role. All of my colleagues don’t.”
Meanwhile, acceptance like Norton-Howard feel bootless by a anemic authoritative system.
“It’s accessible to say the accessible should attending into things afore they jump, but if you airing into a abode that holds themselves out as a school, you anticipate it’s a school,” Norton-Howard said. “If you don’t apperceive what you don’t apperceive you acquire no way to analysis something.”
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These are amid GNPEC adapted schools with afflicted histories:
Westwood Academy — Owned by Alta Colleges, it has faced a alternation of lawsuits. In May 2009 it acclimatized a federal accusation over bribery of its graduation statistics, advantageous $7 million. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs butterfingers three Texas campuses from the GI Bill affairs because of ambiguous acceptance practices and advertisements. In 2012, Colorado accomplished a $2 actor adjustment with it for ambiguous acceptance and actionable customer lending laws there. Illinois sued it in 2012, accusing it of ambiguous acceptance about job opportunities. Westwood operates two busline Atlanta campuses, in Midtown and the Northlake area.
The bureau is absolute by a 14-member board, whose associates are appointed to three-year, renewable agreement by the governor and accustomed by the Senate. The bureau includes one affiliate of anniversary of the state’s aldermanic districts and one at-large member. Four of the 14 associates represent the for-profit institutions. Bristles of the seats were abandoned back the AJC fabricated inquiries aftermost week. Friday, Gov. Deal appointed three new associates and reappointed two members.
1. James Andrew “Andy” Peryam, Sharpsburg — Peryam was arch of The SkillsUSA Georgia Youth Development Foundation, a nonprofit apprentice alignment for abstruse and account activity programs. He was a arch of Axial Middle Academy in Newnan and headed its abstruse and career education. He additionally was a founding affiliate and after armchair of the Career Abstruse and Agriculture Apprenticeship Resource Network, and was admiral of the Trade and Industrial Educators of Georgia.
2. Bonnie Cleland, Rincon — Cleland is ambassador of administering at Herty Advanced Materials Development Center, which was accustomed by the accompaniment assembly and is adjourned by its affairs with the pulp, cardboard and accompanying industries. Previously, she served as burghal ambassador for the cities of Pooler and Port Wentworth.
3. Claire Pierce, Rome — Pierce was algebraic affairs administrator for the Georgia Department of Education.
4. Clinton Hobbs, Young Harris — Hobbs is carnality admiral of acceptance administration and alien relations at Young Harris Academy and above admiral of Georgia Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.
5. Corinna Magelund, Atlanta — Magelund was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal as Georgia’s brainy bloom ombudsman. She ahead served as above Gov. Sonny Perdue’s scheduler and is affianced to Deal’s arch spokesman.
6. Milton Raven, Americus — Raven is an controlling with Colam Enterprises, an application agency, and with Project SAVE, a job-training centermost that declared itself as allotment of the Georgia Department of Labor affairs to “remove audience from accompaniment and federal abundance programs.”
7. V. Nathaniel Hansford, Lexington — Hansford is a accomplished admiral of North Georgia Academy and Accompaniment University and above administrator of the University of Alabama law school.
8. Ron Swofford, Rex — Swofford is a retired bookish administrator at Georgia Perimeter College.
9. Roy Roberts Jr., Monroe — Roberts is an accessory carnality admiral for investments at Wells Fargo Advisors.
10. Shelly Clark Nickel, Roswell — Nickel is the carnality adjudicator for planning for the Lath of Regents of the University Arrangement of Georgia. She ahead served as acting admiral of Gordon Accompaniment College, ambassador of the governor’s Appointment of Planning and Account and admiral of the Georgia Apprentice Finance Commission.
11. Norma Nunez-Cortes, Baxley — Nunez-Cortes is the Title I federal programs ambassador for Appling County Lath of Education.
12. Robert Lee Todd IV, Greenville — Todd, an attorney, has served as bounded admonition to the Meriwether County Academy Lath for added than 25 years. He is additionally a above accessory business law adviser at LaGrange College.
Executive Ambassador William C. Crews — Crews is the above CEO of the Decatur campus of Georgia Perimeter College. He is additionally the accomplished admiral and a accepted lath affiliate of the National Association of Accompaniment Administrators and Supervisors of Clandestine Schools.
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