Two former instructors have sued Kaplan Career Institute, ICM Campus, under the federal False Claims Act, alleging that the job training school in Pittsburgh fraudulently obtained federal funding by inflating its graduation and job placement statistics. According to the whistle-blower suit, ICM violated the Higher Education Act in order to earn federal funding in student financial aid.
The former instructors charge that ICM inflated its statistics on graduates who accepted jobs in their fields to appear to comply with the Higher Education Act, which requires that a school must place at least 70 percent of its students in related fields to be eligible for funds. For example, a graduate with a job as a sales associate at Wal-Mart was categorized as working in “accounting management.” The lawsuit also alleges that ICM encouraged its teachers to falsely raise students’ grades and to mark them present even when they were absent, in an effort to raise its graduation numbers above the 70 percent minimum for federal funding. And, ICM further violated the Higher Education Act to increase enrollment, the suit charges, by accepting students without verifying their qualifications or criminal backgrounds.
The instructors, Victoria G. Gatsiopoulos and Dolores A. Howland, report that they protested to their superiors about the school’s tactics, but the abuses continued. The pair then filed their lawsuit under the qui tam provision of the federal False Claims Act, which permits private citizens to institute fraud claims on the government’s behalf and to share in any money received. The federal government reports that it is still investigating the school’s practices.
For the full story, go to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.