BURLINGTON, Ky. (CN) – Students say the for-profit Beckfield College concealed that its bachelor’s degree programs are not recognized by local law schools and misled them about interest rates on their student loans and the cost of tuition.
Plaintiff Alicia Becker enrolled at Beckfield College for the 2005-06 academic year, hoping to attend law school when she finished her undergraduate degree. She says that “the Beckfield admissions representative assured Becker that … the Paralegal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program at Beckfield would be an appropriate degree for going on to law school.”
She says: “Although Becker was clear about her intentions to attend Beckfield and then attend law school at Northern Kentucky University, Beckfield represented to Becker that her Beckfield degree would be accepted at such a school and concealed from plaintiff its knowledge that a Beckfield degree would not be recognized by NKU or similar law or graduate schools for purposes of satisfying the requirement that a law or graduate school applicant must have completed a bachelor’s degree program before beginning the law or graduate school program.”
Lindsay Reeves, the other plaintiff, says she had a similar experience when she enrolled in Beckfield’s Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degree Program in the spring of 2008. After she filled out an online form, she says, “Representatives of Beckfield called Reeves several times per day in an aggressive attempt to recruit her.”
During these calls, “Beckfield assured her that Beckfield was a good choice if she wanted to go to law school, and they repeatedly represented that Beckfield was a good value. In making representations to plaintiff Reeves, defendant clearly conveyed to her that her credits earned at Beckfield would be accepted by law schools.
“When defendant made these representations to Reeves, it knew or reasonably should have known that the Beckfield degree would be academically useless to plaintiff’s efforts to get into a reputable law school but concealed that knowledge from plaintiff.”
Reeves adds, “the recruiters continued to call so frequently, even after she enrolled, Reeves was forced to change her home telephone number.”
Reeves switched to an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice to finish her education sooner, and when she completed her coursework at Beckfield, she says, she “applied to, was accepted and paid to reserve her seat at NKU.”
“However, after her acceptance and enrollment, she learned that NKU was not going to accept any of her 96 credit hours that she earned at Beckfield as credit toward a bachelor’s degree. She would be required to start over as a freshman.”
After contacting numerous other regionally accredited institutions, Reeves says, she was able to transfer just 40 of her credits to Indiana Wesleyan University, after paying a $1,700 fee.
Both women say Beckfield misled them about the interest rates of their student loans and the cost of their education: “The plaintiffs were given cost estimates based on an academic calendar (9 months). However, to complete a Beckfield degree in four years in their selected programs requires taking classes for the full calendar year (12 months).”
Becker and Reeves signed Enrollment Agreements that specified how much they would pay per credit hour, but Beckfield allegedly “charged per credit hour an amount in excess of the amounts contained in the signed Enrollment Agreement. These excessive charges occurred intentionally and were in breach of the agreements signed by the each plaintiff.
“Beckfield misrepresented to plaintiff Reeves that the interest on their student loans would range from 1% to 4.5%. In fact, the actual interest rates on their loans ranged from 4.5% to 6.8%.”
Beckfield College is the sole defendant in the case. The women seek damages for violations of the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act, negligent misrepresentation, fraud and breach of contract.
They are represented in Boone County Court by Michael O’Hara with O’Hara, Ruberg, Taylor, Sloan and Sergent, of Covington, Ky.
Congress has been investigating for-profit colleges, particularly chain colleges, and reported widespread allegations similar to those in this complaint. The release of a scorching GAO report last summer was followed by a string of shareholder class actions, as the price of many chain schools’ stock dropped upon the release of the report.