LOS ANGELES (CN) - A for-profit school offering counterterrorism programs is "preying on the hopes and dreams of vulnerable students" by lying about post-graduation job prospects, leaving graduates jobless and unable to pay off student loans, a graduate claims in a Superior Court class action.
Brian Wilhelm says he was in a state of "economic despair" when he enrolled at defendant International Development Center's campus in Hollywood, seeking its "Homeland Security and Investigation Fast-Track Diploma."
He paid $15,000 in tuition and was an A student, Wilhelm says, but he ended up jobless in a government-assisted shelter, saddled with student loans.
"This lawsuit arises out of the fraudulent and deceptive business practices of defendant International Career Development College, Inc. This for-profit corporation has churned out graduates from the Homeland Security and Investigation Fast-Track Diploma program and/or Homeland Security Associate's Degree program, many of whom have little or no hope of working at the United States Homeland Security Department at any point in their careers or find similar employment. This for-profit college has misled students into enrolling into its educational programs by adopting misleading/deceptive names for its educational programs, adopting a practice of misrepresenting its post-graduation employment statistics, and by making other misleading and false representations," the complaint states.
ICDC College offers diploma and associate's degree programs through four schools in California, according to the complaint.
Wilhelm says both programs advertise hands-on training, though the associate program, which ICDC markets as helping students "'protect, defend and respond to terrorist attacks,'" is offered only online.
"Indeed, this online program provides little to no hands-on training and the online-classes can be completed by a student without the student actually reading the material. For example, a student need only click a button on the screen for ICDC to consider that class completed 'successfully' (i.e. there is no quality control of the education)," the complaint states. (24)
Wilhelm says that ICDC touts "some of its security guard programs as 'Homeland Security' in order to mislead prospective students," and boasts of a post-graduation employment rate of 95 percent, though the school factors in part-time work and jobs unrelated to its programs.
"At the end of the day, ICDC is more concerned with raking in millions of dollars in tuition and fees than educating and training its students. The disservice ICDC is doing to its students and society generally is readily apparent. Many ICDC Homeland Security Program graduates will never be offered work in the United States Homeland Security Department or otherwise be in a position to profit from their enrollment in ICDC's Homeland Security Programs. And they will be forced to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars in school loans that are nearly impossible to discharge, even in bankruptcy," according to the complaint.
Wilhelm says the average debt for a student graduating from the 2011 programs was $10,000 to $14,000. He claims that many ICDC graduates end up insolvent, homeless or working as security guards, "a position which generally does not require an education beyond high school."
"ICDC attracts students by making glamorous representations of what jobs students will obtain from the Homeland Security Programs[;] these representations include images of individuals fighting for their country, wearing war type of clothing, carrying war type weapons and informing prospective students that they will take classes on 'weapons of mass destruction' and 'terrorism and crime.' These representations are made despite the fact that most graduates of these programs will not work for the United States Homeland Security Department or be close to any weapons of mass destruction and if they are close to any weapons of mass destruction they will not have the adequate training to protect themselves from it," the lawsuit states.
Wilhelm is represented by Rosa Vigil-Gallenberg of Beverly Hills.
He seeks an injunction, $15 million in compensatory and punitive damages, and restitution of more than $15 million, for unfair business practices, false advertising, intentional fraud, negligent misrepresentation, violation of The Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and unjust enrichment.
Neither the law firm nor ICDC immediately responded to requests for comment.
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