SAN BERNARDINO (CN) - Seventy-seven students say the Career Colleges of America defrauded them by charging them $30,000 apiece for a virtually worthless 16-month ultrasound technology program. The plaintiffs, most of them women, say the trade school has a "systemic practice of lying to prospective students about the quality of the education it provides" and that "thousands of students have been misled by CCA's practices, resulting in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars."
The former students sued CCA Educorp dba Career Colleges of America in San Bernardino County Court. The school has campuses in South Gate, San Bernardino and Los Angeles, according to its website.
The students say that despite CCA's rosy promises, virtually all graduates of its program have been "unable to find employment as ultrasound techs."
CCA "offers students training in a wide variety of healthcare professions, with the promise that successful completion of the coursework will allow the students to obtain gainful employment in the specialty studied," according to the complaint.
The school promised that its courses would be led by "well-qualified instructors who would give students hands-on clinical experience." It said its program would prepare students for an exam given by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS), which would qualify them for jobs as ultrasound techs.
The plaintiffs say the school's "enrollment counselors," or salesmen, even "provided students with a list of prominent labs and hospitals in the area that supposedly 'hired' graduates for its program along with a list of salary ranges."
When the plaintiffs enrolled, the CCA program was not accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, but the school promised that it would be by the time they graduated, the students say.
They add that their classes "were not taught by well-qualified instructors," the curriculum was insufficient, and its "testing procedures and other policies were so lax that the amount of education they were obtaining was nowhere near what was necessary to pass the ARDMS exam."
The plaintiffs say that there were very few "clinical sites" available to them and that "multiple students were often assigned to a single clinical site where little to no instruction took place."
"Additionally, many of the clinical sites were not 'diagnostic' in nature and very few of the clinical site instructors were board certified," the students say.
They add that they did not qualify to sit for the ARDMS exam because the program was never - and still is not - CAAHEP accredited.
Most ultrasound technician programs in the United States have 70 to 100 percent placement rates, but "virtually every student" that graduated from the Career Colleges of America's program has been unable to find a job as an ultrasound technician, according to the complaint.
The students say the school made them sign a contract which, "buried in fine print," states that any claims must be settled by arbitration "in accordance with the commercial arbitration rules followed by the American Arbitration Association."
Under those rules, which were never provided to the students, claimants would have to pay from "$12,000 to $20,000 just to have their matter heard," the students say.
The plaintiffs say that many of them left full-time jobs to attend the Career Colleges of America, and now they cannot find work, "with $30,000 in student loans that must now be repaid."
They seek an injunction, restitution, disgorgement and damages for fraud, consumer fraud, unfair competition, fraud, unjust enrichment and negligence.
They are represented by Stuart Talley with Kershaw Cutter & Ratinoff in Sacramento.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.