DENVER (CBS4) – CBS4 has learned that the Colorado attorney general has filed a lawsuit against a chain of career colleges along the Front Range. The suit is under seal by a judge’s order, but CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger has learned the case involves a well-known name.
The case involves College America, which has three campuses in Colorado, including Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs. CBS4 obtained documents that show the attorney general is asking for a temporary restraining order to stop tactics called “ongoing deceptive trade practices” the college has been using to recruit students.
For more than 50 years the private school has offered a better life through college degrees. The attorney general accuses College America of enticing students to enroll with promises of high-paying careers and a better life. But the state insists the true outcome involves low-wage jobs that don’t require a degree.
Tiffany Hoffman wanted to get ahead. She saw a brochure that offered a program to become an emergency medical technician.
“I thought this was going to be a future for me — a future career,” Hoffman said. “Absolutely not … they defrauded me, plain and simple.”
Several months into her education at the Fort Collins campus she discovered College America doesn’t offer EMT training at that location. Hoffman said she feels cheated.
“Absolutely … they’re cheating a lot of people. They’re taking a lot of people’s money and they are getting away with it and somebody needs to stop them,” Hoffman said.
But the school maintains Hoffman was told up front there is no EMT program at the Fort Collins campus and suggested a partial refund. They even offered her the curriculum elsewhere, but she declined.
Others have had different experiences. The school introduced CBS4 to accountant Rocky Brophy as an example of how it has helped people.
“Basically if it wasn’t for College America and my education I wouldn’t have a career, I wouldn’t have a job,” Brophy said.
Krystal Neeley wasn’t as fortunate. She wanted to become a limited radiology technician. Her interview was with a College America admissions representative.
Sallinger: The admissions records mention your husband.
Neeley: I have never been married.
Sallinger: It says your father is a doctor.
Neeley: Far from it.
Sallinger: And you like calculus and chemistry.
Neeley: I hated math.
Hoffman said when she learned she wasn’t eligible for certification, she wanted a refund, but was only offered a small one and the opportunity to take the program elsewhere. Russell Bean is her attorney and feels students have been deceived.
“(The deception) was flat out blatant,” Bean said.
In court documents the attorney general says College America has represented customer service jobs at Walmart, courtesy clerks at King Soopers and working as crew members at McDonald’s as graduates working in their field.
While some praise College America, others feel they’ve been let down.
“This is five years of my life I can never get back,” Hoffman said.
An arbitrator ruled in favor of Hoffman’s claim of fraud and deceit. Separately an arbitrator found in favor of Neeley’s case citing negligence. The school declined an on-camera interview, but issued a statement.
“College America serves a critical role in supporting and providing opportunities to students working very hard to improve their lives. We strongly believe in, and will defend, student freedom of choice in education because the traditional college model doesn’t work for everyone,” the statement said.