Profit-Seeking College Likened to Boiler Room
CHICAGO (CN) - Colorado Tech University trained admissions officers to work in a boiler-room atmosphere and lure prospective students with misleading promises of "nice houses and fancy cars," three former officers claim in court.
Dennis Thomas, Kevin Kruszka and Suzette Agosto sued Colorado Technical University (CTU), a profit-seeking school doing business in Illinois and online, in DuPage County Court.
The plaintiffs claim the school's admissions department was a "high-pressure, incentive-driven sales department" and violated federal regulations mandating that no admissions employee be given a commission bonus based on student enrollment.
"Not only were admission advisors required to enroll a certain number of students in each five and half week cycle, but they were also required to make sure a certain number of enrolled students were actually starting the CTU program," the plaintiffs say.
CTU receives more than $548 million in tuition payments per year from federal student loan programs, according to the complaint.
"CTU's recruitment process and educational model is no more than a Title IV scam whereby CTU incentivizes, instructs and pressures admissions representatives to employ knowing misrepresentations of fact and high-pressure sales tactics in order to enroll as many students as possible so that CTU can obtain millions of dollars in Title IV funds," the complaint states.
"Nearly every morning in 2012 and 2013, CTU called a meeting of its admissions advisors and the Director of Admissions would demand a forecast of how many enrollments each advisor and each team was planning for the day."
The 32-page lawsuit at times makes the CTU office sound like a David Mamet play.
"CTU also implemented a public 'scoreboard' system," it states. "CTU admission advisors sat in large rooms with cubicles. Each room had a large white board. The white board contained the names of every advisor in the room. Every time an advisor successfully enrolled or started a student, a bell would be rung and a tally would be placed on the whiteboard next to the advisor's name. The purpose of the public scoreboard system was to foster a high-pressure sales atmosphere within the admissions department at CTU."
The school sent out emails ranking admissions employees by who was enrolling the most students, and rewarded them with "bragging rights" and free lunches, the plaintiffs say.
Even when the Department of Education banned incentive compensation based on enrollment success, "CTU merely changed the structure of the advisor compensation system, as to better hide the fact that it was still evaluating advisors' enrollment success when considering whether to award incentive compensation or merit-based increases in salary. Further, CTU continued to use the enrollment and start matrix to evaluate admission advisors," according to the complaint.
All three former employees claim that they were interviewed for a promotion, and were questioned mainly on their ability to meet enrollment quotas.
They claim that "CTU told and trained admissions representatives to ask students about their career goals and desired earning potential, and then 'sell' those students on the program by making deceptive and misleading statements to the students about how they only could achieve their dreams of high salaries, nice houses and fancy cars by enrolling in CTU."
All three say they were fired for refusing to mislead students in order to meet enrollment goals.
They seek damages for retaliatory discharge and violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act.
They are represented by Bradley Pollock with Walsh, Knippen, Pollock & Cetina in Wheaton.