PORTLAND, Maine (CN) – Four women claim in a federal class action that the for-profit college Intercoast Career Institute misrepresented the accreditation status of its nursing school in Kittery, Maine.
Bringing their suit on Dec. 30 in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, lead plaintiffs Stephanie Kourembanas, Caridad Jean Baptiste, Cathy Mande and Catherine Valley say the school’s false promises that its program would prepare them to become professional nurses left them saddled with huge student loans.
“The InterCoast LPN program was a sham,” the complaint states, abbreviating licensed practical nursing. “It existed to make money without regard for the quality of education its students received in exchange. InterCoast provided little, if any, educational value to its students and failed to enhance their occupational qualifications or career prospects.”
Though it primarily operates campuses in California, the for-profit vocational school Intercoast Colleges also runs the Intercoast Career Institute in Maine. Intercoast opened its LPN program in Kittery in 2010.
The former students allege that InterCoast’s nursing program failed to provide adequate faculty, adequate clinical experience and adequate preparation for the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nurses, passage of which is required to work as a nurse.
Students could expect to pay about $36,000 for the full program, which was most often financed through federal student loans.
The Maine Board of Nursing originally licensed the school, according to the complaint, but opened an investigation of it in July 2012 amid claims that the school’s clinical sites were of poor quality. What the investigation uncovered, the complaint continues, is a “naïve faculty” that would change students’ grades without notification while blocking students’ access to their own exam results.
As part of a March 2013 consent agreement between the school and the state, the students note that the school was supposed to improve its program to the point where it was eligible to receive accreditation through the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. The school allegedly had to obtain accreditation within 18 months of the agreement.
After the school failed to meets that accreditation deadline, and missed its extension as well, the complaint says InterCoast agreed to surrender its state certificate of approval and to cease operations in Maine by April 2016.
All four plaintiffs say they were students of the school and were made to take out massive student loans that they were are still repaying. Only two of them completed their LPN programs, but were unable to continue their education in pursuit of a RN degree because no other schools would accept credits earned from InterCoast. Another plaintiff says she was forced out of the program by a false plagiarism accusation after a semester of harassment for speaking English as a second language. The final plaintiff left the school after one semester, saying the school refused to let her know whether she passed her final exam.
A representative for InterCoast has not returned an email seeking comment.
The plaintiffs are represented by Andrew Cotter and James Clifford of Clifford & Clifford in Kennebunk and Richard O’Meara from Murray Plumb & Murray in Portland.