Mass. Sues For-Profit School for False Marketing

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by Rodrique Ngowi, Associated Press

BOSTON — A for-profit school offered so little training that students who paid hefty fees to train as medical assistants never learned how to use a stethoscope, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by prosecutors in Massachusetts.

The complaint filed in Plymouth Superior Court accuses Brockton-based Sullivan and Cogliano Training Centers Inc. of “grossly misrepresenting the quality and scope of education” and distorting job placement numbers while leaving students with deep debt and poor job prospects.

Coakley pointed to the school’s portrayal of training for medical assistants as false advertising.

“School advertisements featured women wearing medical scrubs and holding stethoscopes and medical charts, but the school never offered that type of clinical instruction, such as how to use a stethoscope or chart a patient’s medical care,” Coakley said.

Coakley said a growing number for-profit schools nationwide spend a large percentage of their revenues on marketing that targets students from low-income families and veterans eligible for generous federal student loans. The expensive courses and poor instruction ultimately leave students unable to find suitable jobs and default on those loans, she said.

For-profit schools account for 12 percent of the student population nationally, and this small segment also accounts for about 48 percent of all student loan defaults, according to Coakley, who said the suit is the first of its kind.

Prosecutors say 183 students took part in that program, paying, on average, $14,000 in tuition using federal loans, but only 22 got work in medical offices, and most did not find jobs that paid well enough to pay off their debts.

The victims, prosecutors said, were lured by the school’s claims that between 70 and 100 percent of graduates secured jobs in a medical office.

Investigators, however, found that less than 25 percent of graduates found that type of work, and the school counted jobs in fast food and big box stores toward its placement percentages, she said.

School officials did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The school began as a job placement center and ventured into education in 1993. It has offices in Massachusetts and Florida, and offers online courses to students in other parts of the country.

Complaints from students triggered the probe, Coakley said.

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