Attorney General Jack Conway sues National College of Kentucky

conway alleges national college misrepresented job-placement data

jbrammer@herald-leader.comSeptember 28, 2011 

State Attorney General Jack Conway

FRANKFORT — Attorney General Jack Conway sued National College of Kentucky on Tuesday, alleging that the for-profit school misrepresented job-placement numbers for its graduates.

The lawsuit in Fayette Circuit Court is the third Conway has filed as part of his investigation of for-profit colleges in Kentucky.

The three-count lawsuit against National College alleges that it violated the state Consumer Protection Act by making false, misleading and deceptive disclosures about the rate at which its students were able to find jobs in their fields of study.

National College enrolled about 5,000 students in 2010 in campuses in Lexington, Louisville, Florence, Pikeville, Richmond and Danville.

"This type of deception must stop," Conway said at a news conference in his Capitol office.

"National College is putting its bottom line before the hopes and dreams of students who are simply trying to better their lives.

"The reality is that more and more students are leaving for-profit schools with high debt loads and without the high-paying jobs they were promised."

Chuck Steenburgh, spokesman for National College, said in an email: "We are aware that the attorney general has announced that he is filing a lawsuit against the college, but we have not yet been served and thus cannot comment on what it might contain.

"Each individual student's success is our main focus, and we remain committed to that."

Conway said information for his lawsuit against National College "was done simply by watching their Web site."

The suit alleges that since at least 2008, National College has publicly represented that its students achieve "success" in getting jobs at rates that are significantly higher than the rates National reports to the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, or ACICS.

The complaint alleges that from 2008 through December, National showed on its Web site certain "successful employment" figures for graduates of its Lexington, Louisville, Pikeville and Richmond campuses.

For example, in December, National's Web site showed 94 percent of graduates on the Lexington campus got jobs.

But a percentage of 79.5 was reported to the ACICS for 2010.

On its Web site in March, National reported a "successful" employment rate of 91 percent.

The college added a disclaimer for the first time that the number represented graduates who are "employed in any field," Conway said.

The lawsuit says National College offers diplomas and degrees in courses such as medical office assistant, surgical technology, nursing, information systems, engineering and business administration.

Tuition at National College ranges from about $11,000 for some diplomas to $55,000 for some bachelor's degrees.

Conway's lawsuit seeks an order enjoining National from violating the consumer protection law and civil penalties of $2,000 per violation. Conway did not say how many violations allegedly occurred.

National filed a lawsuit in January in Franklin Circuit Court, alleging that Conway's investigation was not supported by sufficient evidence of wrongdoing.

But Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled the investigation could continue.

National College appealed Shepherd's ruling to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, where the issue is pending.

Conway filed suit in July against Daymar College over allegations that it deceived and misled students about textbooks and financial aid.

Conway alleged that students were forced into buying higher-priced books and supplies from Daymar.

In August, Conway filed a motion to intervene in a whistle-blower suit against Education Management Corp., the parent company of Brown Mackie College.

Conway alleged that the company illegally paid recruiters based on the number of students they enrolled in the company's programs.

Conway said he had "active investigations" of five for-profit colleges. He said his office has subpoenaed seven of the 141 proprietary colleges in the state.

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