Monday, March 29, 2010

Miami-Jacobs Career College and Some Questionable Business Practices

Most people, except lawyers and paralegals do not just pick up statutes and administrative codes for light reading. However, anyone who should one do so would have little doubt that the intent of legislature is clear under Ohio Revised Code 3332, Career Colleges and Schools, that the Ohio legislature had every intention of protecting the student, their investment and the investment of the state and federal government's money in writing these laws.

Unfortunately, some for-profit colleges, also known as career colleges and technical or vocational schools continue to operate year after year with impunity -- meaning both the Ohio state and the federal legislature's job is far from over.

It is time for me to take off the gloves and get down and dirty in my quest to educate the public about the business practices of one such school: Miami-Jacobs Career College of Dayton, Ohio. I am publicly accusing the school of the following:

Misleading, deceptive, false and fraudulent information relating to a program.

According to the Ohio Revised Code, this charge is punishable by suspension or revocation of the school's certificate of registration. Here is the actual text in the ORC:

3332-1-04.5 Suspension or revocation of certificate of registration

Presenting to prospective students, either at the time of solicitation or enrollment, or through advertising , mail circulars, or phone solicitation, misleading, deceptive, false, or fraudulent information relating to any program.... employment opportunity, or opportunities for enrollment in accredited institutions of higher education after entering or completing
programs offered by the holder of a certificate of registration; Any agent’s permit issued may be suspended or revoked by the state board of career colleges and schools if the holder of the permit solicits or enrolls students through fraud, deception, or misrepresentation, upon a finding that the permit holder has violated any provision enumerated in division (A), (B), (F), (H), (J), (K), or (M) of section 3332.09 of the Revised Code, or upon finding that the permit
holder is not of good moral character....

After all, the futures of our young people are at stake here as more and more for-profit schools begin operating each year. Just ask a few weary, frustrated and disillusioned former (and current) students just whose interests are being served at this school, the students....or the administration’s -- and ultimately, the private equity group who owns the school and its 36 other “sister schools.”

Let us begin by reviewing this evidence copied and pasted directly from Miami-Jacob’s Accreditation/Approvals page of their best and, most likely, least expensive form of advertisement, their website:

The Ohio Board of Nursing granted the Practical Nursing program at Miami-Jacobs Career College Conditional Approval. Conditional Approval is the standard approval level for all new Nursing programs.

In fact, in the last year, they have put an overlay on the website so that a prospective student must fill out a short questionnaire, along with name, phone number and email address to enter the site. By doing this, you have given permission for the school to contact you, circumventing the National Do Not Call Registry. This tactic is well used in the for-profit sector of colleges on many sites.

This is what the Registry says in this regard:

An established business relationship with a company also will be created if you make an inquiry to the company, or submit an application to it. This kind of established business relationship exists for three months after the inquiry or application. During this time, the company can call

There is no mention here of how old you have to be to establish this business relationship, but I am going to assume that if a student is under 18, they must have parental consent to establish a business relationship that countermands the Do Not Call List request by the parent. Unfortunately, there is no disclaimer stating that.

A visitor to the school's website must answer a short survey that includes a name, phone number and email address requirement to enter the website. There is a disclaimer that says they will not share the information with anyone else and will only use it to "follow-up and track visitors" to their website.

If the whole website weren't so blatantly promoting the school, like all the other forms of advertising they use, the fact that they try to gather information to create a prospect database, shows that the website is for advertisement.

Having established that there is some evidence that the website is a form of advertisement, then according to ORC 3332.1-04.5, that website should be truthful and no segment or web page should be written in a way that could be considered deceptive or fraudulent.

While the above statement is truthful that the Nursing board granted Conditional Approval to the Miami-Jacob's PN program and it is also truthful that Conditional Approval is the standard level of approval for new programs, I charge that this statement is deceptive and fraudulent.

That is because Miami-Jacob’s Practical Nursing program is not new and was under Conditional Approval only due to deficiencies in the program. If the program was operating up to par, it would currently hold a Full Approval with the Ohio Board of Nursing. In addition, the program was one of only 7 in the whole state that was also under a Consent Agreement with the board due to long term deficiencies. In fact, the program is so bad that the Education Liaison with the Ohio Board of Nursing has recommended that the program be discontinued. That is not a daily occurrence with the Nursing board.

It certainly appears then that those two sentences were meant to deceive anyone who checked the accreditation page for the Practical Nursing program. That, folks is the definition for fraud. The school deceived prospective students into continuing to enroll in what the school knew to be a sub-par program that was under grave restrictions with the only agency that is eligible to approve the program and license Practical Nurses in the state of Ohio.

How despicable! This school has no moral or ethical bounds when it comes to the almighty tuition dollars flowing through its coffers on its way to Gryphon Investors. The school also never gave any thought to how employers might look upon graduates of a program so bad that it is cancelled by the board at a time when the whole world knows we need more nurses, not less of them.

Not one of the Practical Nursing students were told at the time of enrollment that the school's program was in jeopardy. Now, if the program is actually denied by the Ohio Board of Nursing, the only students who will be able to sit for the test and become Licensed Practical Nurses will be those who have completed the program by the time that the appeals process has been completed and the board schedules the matter for a meeting.

According to Lisa Emrich, MSN RN, of the Ohio Board of Nursing, the absolute soonest that an order withdrawing Conditional Approval could be ordered would be at the September 2010 board meeting. Anyone completing the program before that time (or later, if applicable) would be allowed to sit for the board.

Unfortunately, any student who has not completed the program would be out of luck as far as continuing on with the program, using any of the classes already taken and passed at Miami-Jacobs. The problem is, and has been, that until a program course has been totally completed, these credits do not transfer from one for-profit school to another.
In order to get your money back, you will most likely have to sue. Good luck there, since you signed an arbitration agreement with the school....

I brought all this up in a phone conversation with John Ware, the Executive Director of the Ohio Board of Career Colleges. According to Ware, IF the Ohio Board of Nursing should fail to allow the program to continue (and he doesn’t think that will happen, he says ), his offices would help the students (as it has done before, according to him) to get the loans of the students discharged. I have not been able to confirm this as yet, as this is totally contrary to current federal law, as explained in The Common Manual, the go-to guide for information on the FFELP(Federal Family of Education Loans program).

According to The Common Manual, and this sounds crazy, but here it is in black and white, straight from the source:

13.8.B Closed School

If a borrower (or a student for whom a parent obtained a PLUS loan) is unable to complete his or her program of study due to the closing of a school, the borrower may qualify to have his or her applicable loans discharged. A borrower is eligible for loan discharge of all or part of his or her
Consolidation loan for the amount of the closed school loan discharge that would have been applicable to the borrower’s underlying loan(s). A borrower is not eligible for loan discharge if the student’s program of study was terminated by the school, but the school did not close at that time. An entire school or location must close for a borrower to be eligible for loan discharge.

It would certainly seem like Mr. Ware should know what he was talking about and that I would not question the source at all. However, I spoke to Ware for over an hour and, frankly, I was not impressed. His return phone call was accompanied by a bored, ho-hum attitude about having to return it that I said, "Boy, you're enthusiastic today, aren't you?"

I was really surprised by his attitude from the beginning. During the conversation, I also kept having to ask him why he was being so argumentative with me. I had to remind him that the Ohio Board of Career Colleges and Schools is a regulatory board to protect the students of the state and not meant as a brochure to promote career colleges in the state of Ohio.

He, in fact, was not impressed by Dave Larsen’s piece in the March 26, 2010 edition of the Dayton Daily News about Miami-Jacob’s nursing program and inferred that most of it was not true within 3 or 4 minutes of the beginning of our conversation. That did not sit well with me at all as I have not only read the Ohio Board of Nursing recommendation, I have also read the Consent Agreement under which the school is currently operating. I knew that the article was factual.

I also know, as I have been doing research on this school since March 12, 2009, a lot more information that was NOT in the article that Mr. Ware cited: intimidation tactics that the school uses to keep the students from making complaints to the board, intimidation tactics that Ms. Mitchell uses to keep intelligent people away from the school. I was accused of violating the “Student Code of Conduct,” though I, a 50 year old parent am not a student and was asked not to return to the campus. Gevena Milbrey, 57, is a student who was terminated over false allegations and then “reinstated” by Ms. Mitchell, after retaining an attorney. We also have phony clinicals, fabrication of evidence, shoddy teaching, shoddy training, and much, much more. n We will go into further details over various aspects of this all in future articles.

So....why is Mr. Ware so defensive over career colleges in the state? According to him, he has never worked at a career college and has been with the board for over 13 years. Has it been too long? Have the staff members of the board gotten too buddy-buddy with the “guests” at the board meetings?

While there are more than 280 schools in the state, there are usually about thirty “guests” at the board meetings. At least for the last six meetings that there are minutes posted for at the website, there is always a representative from Miami-Jacobs. Usually both Joannie Krein and Darlene Waite, the college president show up. Waite only missed one board meeting last year.

I am going even further with my accusations and accusing the Ohio Board of Career Colleges and Schools, in particular, John Ware, of dereliction of duty to the state of Ohio, the Governor’s office and, most importantly, the 70,000 plus students who attend for-profit colleges in the state of Ohio.

During the conversation with Ware, I was sickened by his attitude toward the nursing students and the nursing program at Miami-Jacobs. He kept saying that I was basing things on “what ifs.” That is because I asked him what the type of sanctions the Ohio Board would make to Miami-Jacobs. I asked him all these questions and more: “Was the board aware that the nursing program was on a Consent Agreement? Was the board aware that students were being enrolled without disclosing the fact that the program was in jeopardy? Was that even legal? Why wasn’t the board doing more to protect the students in these cases? What would happen to the students who had not completed the program? What about the time and trouble these students have gone through to just not graduate? How was the board protecting the student with that attitude? What about the ramifications of future employment with a known sub-par program? Was he a pal of Miami-Jacob president, Darlene Waite’s? Have they lunched? Attended the same social functions?"(No to the last two questions)”

Disgustingly, he was very blasé about the fact that the students might not get their degrees. They could transfer to other schools, he said. I asked him, “Are you telling me you are not aware that these credits do not transfer, Mr. Ware?” That was when he started telling me that the board would help them get their tuition back....I believe Mr. Ware was again confusing the issue. If the Practical Nursing program closes, the students are on their own....if the whole school closes, the students have access to the Ohio Student Tuition Recovery Fund.

Mr. Ware and his cronies at the Ohio Board of Career Colleges are not doing their jobs, folks. You can swear me in before the state legislature and I will attest to it. I have more on this and will report on it in a future article.

It is up to a court of law to prove the criminality of these allegations that I make toward the school. Unfortunately, there is no court of law currently taking Miami-Jacobs Career College to task over violations of any state or federal law. (The first sign of evidence that the members of the Ohio Board of Career Colleges are not doing their jobs.)

That is why I chose to conduct my campaign in the court of public opinion and am not afraid to do so. Do you think that the school should have been required to disclose to enrolling students that its nursing program was in jeopardy? Do you think that the board should take a greater role in regulating these schools? Stay tuned for part two of this article before you decide.

In spite of my accusations toward the board, I urge you all to file any and all complaints that you have about Miami-Jacobs to the Ohio Board of Career Colleges. The school has a pattern and a history of student abuse, intimidation, shoddy programs and more. There are plenty of people stepping up all of a sudden and telling me their stories. I've had three phone calls in the past three days. If you have a story, call me at 727-638-2178. Let us all work together to force the board to do its job. It is past the time for the board to have its eyes opened about this school and others like it.