Complaints against for-profit schools kept secret by Texas Workforce Commission as lawsuits, investigations mount

graduation cap

A for-profit chain of trade schools based outside Fort Worth, ATI, has been ordered by the state to undergo an audit on the heels of a revealing report on the colleges' dismal record for placing graduates in jobs.

 

According to this story from WFAA in Dallas:

The (Texas Workforce Commission) noted that a total of 300 graduates which ATI claimed to have jobs had no jobs at all. An additional 427 graduates were not employed where ATI said they were. The state also found that 5 percent of graduates — 34 of 750 — were listed as "employed" by ATI in a possible effort to pad the job placement reports.

It's enough to make us wonder, again, just how well the for-profit schools are serving students. But the Texas Workforce Commission has made it hard to tell, denying a public information request for complaints filed against American Commercial College, a Lubbock-based trade school with campuses in Odessa, San Angelo, Abilene and three other towns. The commission claimed release of the information could impede an ongoing investigation when questioned by the Abilene Reporter-News.

 

WFAA, which has done excellent reporting into for-profit schools, has taken on the commission for its handling of for-profit trade schools and criticized the secrecy around school records. From an October piece:

For-profit schools, also known as career colleges, are policed by the Texas Workforce Commission, the TWC. Schools file annual documentation with the TWC on students enrolled and placed.

News 8 asked for the information under the Texas Public Information Act and were denied access. The TWC contends that the names of students and their employers are protected under federal law.

The result is that no eyes — except those of the TWC — ever examine the outcomes of thousands of students at Texas for-profit schools.

A little verification couldn't hurt, since this is an agency with a track record of being pro-business, and disgruntled students even called us after we blogged on dubious graduation and job placement figures by ATI. Their complaints were similar to that of Rose King, whose beef with American Commercial College -- nonexistent training that left her saddled with debt and a useless piece of paper -- is detailed in the Reporter-News story.

 

It seems there would be no better public interest than providing consumer complaints against a business that is being investigated by the state. Finding any record of these investigations, complaints or reports on the TWC Web site is difficult if not impossible.

 

Disgruntled students have turned to the courts for help, filing a lawsuit against American in Taylor County. Other similar suits have been filed in Dallas County, including one against Everest Collegea chain that trains plumbers, dental assistants, and paralegals. Last month, a class action suit was filed in Los Angeles against Everest parent Corinthian Colleges, alleging fraud in its recruitment and admissions process.

 

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Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.


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Photo of graduation cap by flickr user K. Sawyer, used via a Creative Commons license.