January 25, 2024

Florida Career College Says It’s Closing

Florida Career College Says It's Closing

Florida Career College, a chain of schools that offered programs in health care, business, and other fields but faced a cutoff of federal aid following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education, announced this morning that it is shutting down for good.

Addressing a meeting of the Florida state Commission on Independent Education this morning, Dannys Rabelo, regional director of regulatory compliance at FCC’s parent company, California-based International Education Corp., announced, “We are disappointed to cease operations in 2024” after 40 years in business and said the school was “permanently closing all remaining campuses” effective February 15. Rabelo said the school “made the expensive but responsible decision to teach out” its remaining students at other schools and is conducting “an orderly closure.” She said IEC made the decision to close FCC “after exhaustive efforts” to stay in business.

The Department of Education announced last April that it was terminating FCC’s certification to receive federal aid, citing extensive evidence that “FCC broke federal rules,” including rules governing ability-to-benefit (ATB) tests taken by some students without a high school diploma in order to gain admission to college.

Allegations that FCC regularly and blatantly facilitated cheating on ATB tests were first reported in a May 2020 article on Republic Report.

Our prior reporting on FCC, the Department’s findings last April, and evidence revealed through a lawsuit brought by Black former students alleging FCC targeted them for predatory recruiting, all reveal numerous examples of other misconduct at the school, beyond the ATB cheating.

Our 2020 articles focused on FCC’s Orlando campus. According to former employees there, FCC’s recruiters found homeless people in strip mall parking lots and lured them to campus by giving them hot dogs. They tricked others into campus visits by claiming they were offering job interviews. The former employees told me FCC admitted students whose physical and intellectual disabilities prevented them from doing the jobs they trained for, including a student whom the school enrolled in a dental assisting program even though she was legally blind and couldn’t adequately see inside patients’ mouths. The school also enrolled students whose convictions for violent crimes made them ineligible for positions they sought, as well as students who didn’t speak English, even though the programs were only in English.

Despite all the evidence of abuses, at CIE meetings last year IEC indicated it might be able to keep FCC alive through negotiations with the education department or by means of an appeal of the department’s decision. But apparently IEC has now decided those efforts are not worth pursuing.

CIE acting chair Tra Williams told today’s meeting, “I’m saddened by this chain of events” and praised FCC for its training of students. Williams added that he hoped other schools would “absorb some of your outstanding staff.” Williams, an official with FleetForce Truck Driving School, had contended at a CIE meeting last May that FCC had gotten a raw deal from the Department. Williams told IEC officials that the Department’s action was “disproportionate.” He added, “I personally know what it’s like to facilitate opportunity for people and then be vilified for that.”

But not everyone agrees with Williams about the company’s virtue. IEC is now facing additional scrutiny not only from the U.S. Department of Education, but also from California’s attorney general and from accreditor ACCSC, which oversees ten campuses of two other IEC-owned schools, UEI College and United Education Institute.