The Iowa Attorney General’s office has announced that the Education Management Corporation (EDMC), a Pennsylvania for-profit education company, has agreed to forgive approximately half a million dollars in loans for more than 600 former Iowa students and over 102.8 million dollars nationwide that was held by over 80,000 former students.

According to the Iowa Attorney General’s office, EDMC operates 110 schools in 32 states and Canada which include Brown Mackie College located in Bettendorf in addition to online students that are enrolled nationwide.

The investigation started in January of 2014 after states begin receiving complaints from current and former EDMC students.

“Our investigation gave us a pretty clear picture of how EDMC lured prospective students into its programs, and how many students left the program with unfulfilled promises and oftentimes tremendous debt,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said. “We think this agreement addresses our biggest concerns about the company’s business practices and puts in place new transparency and accountability.”

As part of the agreement, EDMC does not admit to the conduct alleged by attorneys general in the 39 states and the District of Columbia.

Under the agreement, EDMC must:

  • Not make misrepresentations concerning accreditation, selectivity, graduation rates, placement rates, transferability of credit, financial aid, veterans’ benefits, and licensure requirements. EDMC shall not engage in deceptive or abusive recruiting practices and shall record online chats and telephone calls with prospective students.
  • Provide a single-page disclosure to each prospective student that includes the student’s anticipated total cost, median debt for those who complete the program, the default rate for those enrolled in the same program, warning about the unlikelihood that credits from some EDMC schools will transfer to other institutions, the median earnings for those who complete the program, and the job placement rate.
  • Require every prospective student utilizing federal student loans or financial aid to submit information to the interactive Electronic Financial Impact Platform (EFIP) in order to obtain a personalized picture of the student’s projected education program costs, estimated debt burden and expected post-graduate income.
  • Reform its job placement rate calculations and disclosures to provide more accurate information about students’ likelihood of obtaining sustainable employment in their chosen career.
  • Not enroll students in programs that do not lead to state licensure when required for employment or that, due to lack of accreditation, will not prepare graduates for jobs in their field.
  • Require incoming undergraduate students with fewer than 24 credits to complete an orientation program prior to their first class.
  • Permit incoming undergraduate students at ground campuses to withdraw within seven days of the beginning of the term or first day of class (whichever is later) without incurring any cost.
  • Permit incoming undergraduate students in online programs with fewer than 24 online credits to withdraw within 21 days of the beginning of the term without incurring any cost.
  • Require that its lead vendors, which are companies that place website or pop-up ads urging consumers to consider new educational or career opportunities, agree to certain compliance standards. Lead vendors shall be prohibited from making misrepresentations about federal financing, including describing loans as grants or “free money;” sharing student information without their consent; or implying that educational opportunities are, in fact, employment opportunities.

“When we started our work together, the attorneys general had many concerns about the ways that some higher education providers recruited students. EDMC wanted to take the lead in developing the best ways to address each one of these concerns, and we have done so,” said EDMC President and CEO Mark A. McEachen. “EDMC is proud to have worked closely with the state attorneys general to produce a new, one-page, easy-to-read disclosure that provides important information for students as they consider their higher education options at one of our schools.”

“We are also pleased to have resolved the civil claims raised by the Department of Justice and state attorneys general. Though we continue to believe the allegations in the cases were without merit, putting these matters behind us returns our focus to educating students.”

In order to receive automatic relief for the EDMC loans, students must have been enrolled in an EDMC program with fewer than 24 transfer credits; withdrew within 45 days of the first day of their first term; and their final day of attendance must have been between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2014.

EDMC also agreed to pay a $95 million settlement as part of a separate federal whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act. In that case, the government alleged that EDMC illegally paid incentive-based compensation to its admissions recruiters tied to the number of students they recruit.

Image Credit: © vectorfusionart / Dollar Photo Club

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