ASA College Called a Snare & Delusion
MANHATTAN (CN) - ASA College targets minorities and immigrants for their federal tuition dollars, then fails to deliver on promises to help them find work once they graduate, a class action claims in Federal Court.
Lead plaintiff Karilin Frica Sanchez claims the Manhattan-based school lured her and others with promises of programs with occupational training, and that the college would help place them in externships that will lead to employment.
They claim the school lied that its graduates have a "proven track record" of getting jobs, and that its degree is a "fast and affordable route to obtaining a job."
"For years, ASA's students have been victimized by a massive scheme to draw millions of dollars of federal and state financial aid to ASA at the students' expense and detriment by systematically and fraudulently misrepresenting the nature of ASA's certificate and degree programs," the lawsuit states.
ASA has two campuses in Brooklyn, one in Manhattan and one in North Miami Beach.
According to the 66-page complaint, a "vast majority of students at ASA are black, Hispanic or Asian; only 4 percent of ASA's student body is white. A significant number of students are recent immigrants who speak little or no English."
About 85 percent of ASA's students come from homes with incomes less than $30,000, according to the lawsuit. Tuition for a semester at ASA is $6,000 - "nearly three times the cost of a semester at any of the City University of New York's community colleges," according to the lawsuit.
Plaintiffs say that during the 2010-11 school year, ASA reported revenue in excess of $78 million, "of which over $34 million was from federally granted student loans, over $27 million was from Pell Grants ... and over $15 million was from the New York Tuition Assistance Program."
"ASA defendants invest as little of ASA's revenue as possible in student services, such as instruction and career assistance, in favor of recruiting, advertising and profit," the lawsuit states.
The school has a strict enrollment quota that requires its workers to enroll a specific number of students a week or "face severe repercussions, including termination," according to the complaint.
That means admissions employees try to enroll students "by whatever means necessary - including by deception, misrepresentation and material omission - and regardless of the suitability of ASA's programs to each individual's capacities and needs."
Recruiters then target low-income, minority and immigrant residents "believed to be most vulnerable" through probation offices, public assistance centers and public housing complexes.
Plaintiffs say the school lied that it is accredited by a "federally recognized accrediting agency," and is authorized to operate by the New York State Department of Education.
"These representations are misleading because ASA has obtained these credentials only by means of fraud and does not in fact the requirements necessary for accreditation or authorization," according to the complaint.
Plaintiffs say that a "large majority of ASA students never graduate," and that a "vast majority" of graduates can't find work. They're then saddled with "crippling student loan debt that they are unable to afford," the lawsuit states.
Plaintiffs - all based in New York City - "seek to end these reprehensible and predatory practices." They want to shut the school down, and they want their money back.
Named as defendants along with ASA College Inc. are its executives: Alex Shchegol, Victoria Kostyukov, Victoria Shtamler, Robert Dumaual, Lesia Willis-Campbell, Jose Valencia, Shanthi Konkoth Mark Mirenberg, and Alexander Agafonov.
The lawsuit was filed by Yisroel Schulman with the New York Legal Assistance Group.