Kelli J. Amaya who worked as an administrator at the Harris School of Business and its Wilmington, Delaware campus had some serious doubts about the organization and its for profit chain of trade schools. She along with several other former employees aledge that school executives skewed aptitude tests and enrolled students that never should have been admitted. “I saw students who never should have been there, students with whopping gaps in learning abilities and major psychiatric problems who were just not capable of doing the work,” (Perez-Pena 2014) said Ms. Amaya. She goes on to say that “The bosses were always like, ‘Stop asking why they’re enrolled, just get them to graduation however you can’ ”(Perez-Pena 2014).
Seven former employees are pressing charges in a federal lawsuit against the Harris school and its parent company Premier Education Group, which owns more than 2 dozen trade schools and community colleges. The suit alleges that school officials routinely misled students about career prospects while falsifying records to enroll them and keep them enrolled, ensuring that government grants would continue rolling in at over $10,000 per student/per program. Former employees state that the school enrolled students that should not have been in their programs. Ms. Amaya recalls, a student with an ankle monitor who was studying to be a pharmacy technician when, most widely recognized certification for pharmacy technicians excludes anyone convicted of a felony. Another student enrolled in massage therapy had been convicted of a sex crime which would prevent him from ever being licensed. The company’s lawyers have denied many of the charges, claiming only isolated instances resulting from having a hard-to-serve clientele. “It’s a frivolous lawsuit,” (Perez-Pena 2014) said Gary Camp, chief executive of Premier. “We’re proud of the record we have. When you employ 1,500 people, you can’t always make the best of decisions in the people you hire”(Perez-Pena 2014). Several students interviewed outside the Harris campuses said that when they took the tests they were told not to worry because the results did not matter. Premier’s lawyers noted that no government agency requires the use of any aptitude test. “Maybe what they want is for Premier to discriminate based on disability,”(Perez-Pena 2014) Mr. Farrell said. “We deny passing anyone who didn’t deserve to be passed at a Premier school”(Perez-Pena 2014).
Many of the complaints against Harris are similar to those made against other for-profit schools, including high pressure enrollment tactics and misleading promises. It is reported that these for profit schools disproportionately enroll low income and minority students who qualify for government aid and the schools in turn rely heavily on the aid for revenue. The suit is filed under the federal False Claims Act, charging that the conduct of Harris and Premier defrauded the federal government. Under this type of claim the defendants can be found liable for triple and actual damages, and whistleblowers can be very well compensated, it would be enough to put Premier out of business completely. Lawyers for the company suggest that this a key motive for the suit.