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Posted: 3/16/2005 8:32:02 AM EST
BCTI, facing lawsuits, closes all its campuses

DAVID WICKERT; The News Tribune
Last updated: March 16th, 2005 12:01 AM

A Gig Harbor-based career school accused of preying on vulnerable students closed all of its campuses Monday.
The Business Career Training Institute – facing a class-action lawsuit, state investigations and a lawsuit for back rent on its Tacoma campus – notified students, staff and state regulators of the closure late Sunday. The closure affects five campuses in Washington and two in Oregon. As of February, there were 500 to 600 students enrolled at BCTI’s Washington campuses.

Tana Stenseng, spokeswoman for the state Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, said students currently enrolled should be able to recover at least part of their tuition and perhaps have their federal student loans forgiven. But that won’t help scores of former students who say the school gave them few marketable skills or job prospects but left them thousands of dollars in debt.

BCTI’s closing follows months of scrutiny in Washington and Oregon. The Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board has asked BCTI to repay more than $63,000 worth of state financial aid after finding evidence the school manipulated admission tests. The result was that students who were not eligible to enroll received financial aid.

The workforce board, which licenses private career schools, had warned BCTI to stop recruiting students within 40 feet of unemployment and welfare offices, practices prohibited by state law. The company agreed to stop the practice.

In Oregon, the state Department of Education placed BCTI on probation last month. An investigation found BCTI misled students about the kinds of jobs its training would prepare them for, enrolled students who could not benefit from the school’s training and submitted false student completion and job placement data to the state.

On top of those investigations, a student last week filed a class-action lawsuit against BCTI, accusing the school of enrolling vulnerable or unqualified students to boost financial aid income, leaving them with large debts.

BCTI co-presidents Tom Jonez and G. Morris Piggott Jr. did not return phone calls.

Interviews with dozens of former students indicate the college recruited many students outside welfare and unemployment offices with promises that its training would lead to good-paying jobs. Once enrolled, students say, they received only basic computer training, for which they were charged more than $10,000.

Many students said they left the school owing thousands of dollars but could find only low-paying service jobs.

Though Monday’s closing came with no official warning, student Debbie Richardson said the college had been losing staff and students for months. She said a dean hinted to her class last month the school might close.

There were other warning signs. Last week the landlord of BCTI’s Tacoma campus filed a lawsuit seeking three months’ back rent, fees and damages.

Richardson, who enrolled at BCTI last September, said she learned little in class, but owes about $6,600 in student loans.

“BCTI makes it sound like they are the answer to your prayer,” Richardson said. “They’re so deceptive.”

Tuition refunds, loan cancellations

Current students of the Business Career Training Institute might be able to get a tuition refund from the state of Washington, while those with federal student loans might be eligible to have them canceled. Students on an excused leave of absence also could be eligible. For information, call the state Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board at 360-753-5662 or the U.S. Department of Education in Seattle at 206-615-2594.

David Wickert: 253-274-7341

Link Posted: 3/16/2005 8:44:34 AM EST
That sucks for the people who thought they were improving their job skills.
Link Posted: 3/16/2005 9:44:25 AM EST
I've seen them doing the hounding outside welfare offices...I had to go to DSHS to handle some of my child support issues and they would NOT leave me alone!

"Wanna learn how to work with technology?"

"I work in the IT business"

"Wanna improve your skills?"

"Been doing it for over 10 years, I could probably teach the classes"

"Wanna sign up anyway?"

"How bout NO!"
Link Posted: 3/16/2005 5:50:16 PM EST
It's ALWAYS, repeat - ALWAYS - that way w/ these "schools". They changed titles from "trade" to "career" or "technical" schools, but it's still the same old scam. The only private school w/ any sort of credibility that I know of in this area is Seattle University. The rest are about getting people signed on & raking their tuition $$$.
Link Posted: 3/17/2005 9:54:39 AM EST
I knew both of the owners personally a few years back. Went to Mexico with Tom back in 1997 to build some houses for the poor.

But this whole thing with BCTI all seems kinda shady, I wonder when it all began.
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