Attorney General: Kentucky College Misrepresents Job Placements

FRANKFORT. Ky. — Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a for-profit college with campuses in the state’s two largest cities, claiming the school exaggerated job placement numbers to students.

Conway accused Spencerian College of violating the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act by making unfair, false and deceptive statements in its publications and website regarding the hiring rates of its students in their chosen professions. Spencerian operates campuses in Lexington and Louisville.

In some cases, Spencerian’s advertised job placement rates were 30 percent or 40 percent higher than the rates reported to its accreditor, Conway said.

And the school falsely claimed to have 100 percent placement rates within some programs, he said.

“I believe Spencerian College was more concerned about signing students up for classes and getting its hands on student loan money than educating students and placing them in jobs,’ Conway said. “The bottom line is they preyed on people who were trying to build better lives for their families in these tough economic times.”

Spencerian is owned by Sullivan University System Inc. Sullivan says on its website that it is Kentucky’s largest private college or university.

Messages left for Spencerian and Sullivan University officials were not immediately returned.

Conway said his suit seeks an injunction against Spencerian to prevent further deceptive practices. It also seeks civil penalties of $2,000 per violation.

The suit was filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court. It’s the fourth complaint Conway has pursued against the for-profit college industry as part of an ongoing investigation.

Since at least 2007, Spencerian reported job placement rates to students through its website and in a publication, Conway said. The school claimed that those published rates were the same placement rates it reported to its accreditor, he said.

However, the rates were significantly different, he said.

For instance, in 2008 Spencerian’s Louisville branch claimed a 100 percent placement rate among students in its medical clinical specialist program, Conway said. But the placement rate reported to the accreditor was 67 percent. In 2010, the Louisville campus purported to have an 80 percent placement rate among its phlebotomy students, when the actual reported rate was 40 percent, he said.

At the Lexington campus, there was a 37.5 percent gap between the actual 2009 placement rate and the advertised rate in a phlebotomy-related medical assistant program, Conway said. Double-digit discrepancies were found in several other programs at both campuses from 2007 to 2010, he said.

Spencerian removed the conflicting placement rates from its website after being confronted by the attorney general’s office, Conway said.