FastTrain college, other for-profits on the wrong track

Haleigh McGill

Haleigh McGill
Haleigh McGill

It’s no secret that people often associate college with partying and outrageous behavior on behalf of the students, and to some extent that stereotype can be expected and even embraced as part of the college experience. But what happens when that precedent is instead carried out by the institutions themselves in order for them to get what they want?

We have all heard the saying that “money is power” and many for-profit colleges function too close to that idea, putting the central needs of incoming and transfer students too low on their list of priorities.

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FastTrain College, a for-profit Florida institution, has recently faced a lawsuit due to the school’s use of exotic dancers as admissions officers to lure in male students, falsifying documents and telling students how to lie on financial forms as FastTrain illegally obtained millions in federal money.

What started as a civil complaint against FastTrain from the United States and the State of Florida has resulted in the institution being shut down and the former owner, Alejandro Amor, dealing with the lawsuits and accusations. According to a recent article from the Washington Times that breaks down the Associated Press’s report of the incident, Amor “faces lawsuits from federal authorities on criminal charges of allegedly filing the Department of Education out of millions of dollars for false grant applications. He also faces civil charges. The scam … allegedly included the hiring of strippers to draw males to apply to the college — between January 2009 and June 2012.”

Amor’s methods to increase attendance and illegally obtain more money are outrageous, but what’s worse is the fact that the students’ best interests weren’t any part of his plan. The exploitation of students seems to be a common theme among for-profit colleges, and the level of dishonesty and corruption is nothing but unfortunate and disgusting. A 2010 article from USA Today titled “For-Profit Colleges Under Fire Over Value, Accreditation” mentions then-student Chelsi Miller’s troubling experience with Everest College, a national for-profit school.

“For Miller, the wake-up call came when University of Utah officials said her credits wouldn’t transfer from (Everest College). That left Miller with a 3.9 grade-point average for an associate’s degree that she says did nothing to advance her education and career goals … Everest mislead her when it suggested her credits would transfer and misrepresented what it would cost her.” Miller, along with two other students, filed a fraud lawsuit that accused Everest’s owner, Corinithian Colleges.

The problem is that these for-profit university officials care more about their shareholders than their students. While this is certainly not the case for all for-profits, the incidents are significant and are giving the rest of for-profits, as well as education in general, a bad reputation. Advancing with higher education is not meant to be some sketchy, under-the-table process that benefits all the wrong people in all the wrong ways.

There are many situations where the end result does not justify the means used to get there, and the aforementioned situations are definitely among those. The damage has been done, and I can only hope that other educational institutions will observe the consequences and recognize that students must come first.

Collegian Columnist Haleigh McGill can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @HaleighMcGill.