September 3, 2019

Judge Says He Needs More Time to Decide CollegeAmerica Fraud Case

A Colorado state judge says he needs more time to rule in a fraud case that Colorado’s attorney general took to trial in late 2017 against the CollegeAmerica chain of career colleges.

The case was brought by then-Colorado attorney general Cynthia Coffman, a Republican. CollegeAmerica called as its expert witness, to present evidence supporting the school’s defense that it did not engage in fraud, Diane Auer Jones, who is now Betsy DeVos’s top higher education aide at the Trump education department. (Jones’s testimony was dubious, at best.) (Colorado’s expert witness was Rohit Chopra, now a Democrat-appointed member of the Federal Trade Commission.)

In the trial, Colorado contended that CollegeAmerica engaged in the systematic fleecing of students and taxpayers — that CollegeAmerica staff consistently misled and lied to students about the selectivity of the school, the transferability of credits, the jobs they could obtain, the salaries they could earn, and more.

An example: The school, according to the AG’s office, hyped its “Medical Specialties” associate degree as leading to lucrative careers in a range of medical jobs. The program cost $42,000 — more than four times as much as comparable degree programs at community colleges. But most of the jobs that graduates had a chance to get were low-level, low-paid positions did not require a college degree at all.  Once students had completed the program, CollegeAmerica employees would then sometimes disparage the value of the program and hype the next expensive program — a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration. But again, most graduates could only get low-rung jobs that did not require an associate’s degree, let alone a bachelor’s.

The trial having concluded nearly two years ago, Colorado and CollegeAmerica filed a joint motion last month asking the court for a status conference.

Judge Ross B. Buchanan responded with an order stating:

In terms of a status update, the court advises the parties and counsel that it is acutely aware that the order following the court trial in this matter is overdue, and that it is the court’s highest priority to finalize it as soon as possible. However, the court is unable to put any specific timeframe on the issuance of the order. As the parties are aware, the testimonial and documentary record are extensive, and at least some of the legal issues quite complex. The court has been working on the order as diligently as the available time and resources have allowed, consistent with the ever competing demands of its caseload. The court will issue the order as expeditiously as possible.

Meanwhile, somehow the public still does not know what kind of sweetheart deal Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos gave CollegeAmerica’s owner, the Center for Excellence in Higher Education, when that organization, last December, dropped its lawsuit complaining of its treatment by the Obama administration.