BOSTON (WWLP) – A now-closed school that offered career certificate programs has admitted to several fraudulent practices, including falsifying student records, using unlicensed instructors, and overstating job prospects for graduates. American Career Institute, which had a campus in Springfield, as well as seven other locations in Massachusetts and Maryland, agreed to a $25 million judgment to settle a lawsuit brought forward by the Attorney General’s office in 2013.
And now, the school it admits it lied to students, forged documents, and hired unqualified teachers.
Luis Silva who graduated from Putnam Vocational Academy in Springfield Monday, told 22News, students should do more research before committing to a school. “Don’t just jump on the first school you think of. You just really want to look into it. See if you know people who went to that school personally.
According to a news release sent to 22News by the Attorney General’s Office, most of the $25 million judgment will not be paid out, because the school is insolvent. But they are urging the Department of Education to cancel loans that students took out to attend ACI.
“Our office has achieved an unprecedented result against a predatory for-profit school that we hope will yield long-overdue relief for thousands of ACI students in Massachusetts,” Attorney General Maura Healey said.
“Just investigate, investigate, investigate,” said Docia Walters of Springfield.
The AG’s office says that ACI resorted to illegal practices in order to attract students, and maintain its accreditation. These included forging student signatures, telling some students that employment was guaranteed upon graduation, and creating false documents tracking job placements- purporting to show that ACI graduates got jobs at companies at fictitious companies, or real companies that never actually employed ACI graduates. They also provided inadequate supplies, employed unlicensed teachers, and offered externships prosecutors described as “valueless.”
ACI offered certificate programs in fields including information technology and medical assisting. Tuition and fees could run up to $23,000.
It is estimated that some 4,400 former ACI students may be eligible for student loan relief, with 1,400 students eligible for discharge of their loans, because they were attending at the time the school abruptly closed in 2013.
If you were an ACI student, you are urged to call the Student Loan Assistance Hotline at (888) 830-6277, or fill out the ACI Student Contact Information Update Form online.