Iowa students who graduated from a misleading education program at Ashford University will be splitting a settlement to compensate for the difficult situation in which they find themselves.
After completing the for-profit program, the students each found out that their degree would not allow them to be certified as teachers in Iowa — nor in any state — since they did not complete student teaching.
The 296 students will be splitting a $7.25 million settlement between the state and the university's parent company, Bridgepoint Education Inc., writes Pat Curtis of Radio Iowa. $5.25 million of it will be distributed among the students in checks from $1,000-$55,000, and $1.74 million will reimburse students who paid an excessive "technology fee."
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said at a press conference that basic student expectations were not met:
You would think with a college degree, a four-year program, you'd be able to get licensed. That is sort of the natural assumption that anybody and everybody would make.
He also notes that these checks barely make a dent in the loans of the misled students:
The average federal student loan amount owed by Ashford online education program students receiving refunds is $27,000, and the highest loan amount is $248,000.
The school was found to be using aggressive recruitment tactics that didn't mention that the program would not make them eligible for teacher certification in any state. Despite the Iowa Board of Education Examiners not certifying Ashford graduates because the program involves no student teaching, the company maintained its innocence, writes Erin Murphy of the Sioux City Journal.
An Ashford media statement took a âcaveat emptor' approach:
While Bridgepoint Education and Ashford University are pleased that the settlement proceeds have been distributed to current and former students to assist them with their educational and professional goals, both institutions expressly deny wrongdoing of any kind.
Ashford denies ever using âunfair or high-pressure sales tactics, including emotionally-charged appeals to persuade prospective students to make uninformed decisions to enroll,' and denies ever âmaking false or misleading statements to prospective students in order to convince them to enroll.'
Student Christina LeBlanc of Comanche got a $21,000 refund after signing up for the teaching program so she could go to school while keeping her full time job and supporting her family. According to Roger Riley of WhoTV, her advice for other students is:
I would say, if you think it's too good to be true, it probably is. Ask more questions, and don't assume.
Bridgepoint plans to close the Ashford campus in Clinton, Iowa, but 99% of its students take online courses instead, writes Shellie Nelson of WQAD.