Miami-Jacobs not 'up-front' about accreditation status, some say

3 students say school was not up-front about program.

Miami-Jacobs Career College is again awarding diplomas to students in a program that is not accredited, mirroring a 2008 situation that led to lawsuits and the school paying five students more than $100,000 worth of settlements.

Now, three students who recently finished a surgery technology program in Columbus say they are stuck waiting until the school earns accreditation before they are eligible to sit for a national certification, which is not mandatory to work in Ohio, but required by many employers here and across the country.

In a written statement, Joan Krein, director of the Miami-Jacobs Columbus campus, said “each student was made aware when they were admitted into the program” of its accreditation status. “They were subsequently informed in writing and then reminded in letters, one-on-one meetings, and small group meetings. Any claim to the contrary is not true.”

But students Yolanda Walker, Amanda Miller and Melissa Dickinson say the school was not up-front initially about the accreditation and they only learned months after they enrolled of the program’s status.

“They said they were accredited when the lady registered me for school,” Walker said. “Come to find out last September that they weren’t.”

The students say they hope to meet with Erin B. Moore, the Dayton attorney who handled the lawsuit against Miami-Jacobs by students at the Dayton campus. Miami-Jacobs was ordered in 2010 to pay settlements to five of seven former surgery technology students after they sued over accreditation issues.

Another student, Maria Montalvan of Canal Winchester, filed a similar complaint in 2010 about accreditation of the school’s surgery technology program with the Ohio Board of Career Colleges and Schools, state records show. Montalvan claimed the school never explained to her the program she was attending was not accredited and she only found out when she was given a letter weeks after classes started.

School officials responded that the lack of accreditation was discussed at orientation and followed up with a letter weeks later.

In a letter to Montalvan, state investigator Kimberly Stein concluded Montalvan was “confused” about programmatic accreditation when it was discussed at orientation, but better understood the situation after receiving the letter and meeting with Miami-Jacobs staff.

Montalvan withdrew from the program shortly after and received refunds for parking costs and a computer.

John Ware, director of the state board, said students are often confused by the difference between a school’s accreditation, which is required to operate and be eligible for financial aid, and accreditation of individual programs, which is often voluntary. Career schools are not required by the state to disclose voluntary programmatic accreditation. “A lot of people don’t understand the difference,” he said.

The college recently paid for the Columbus students to take another exam, but the students are unsure employers will consider it as equal to the national certification. “I went to school for two years. I want my certification,” said Miller.

Besides a short written statement, Miami-Jacobs officials would not answer questions about the surgery technology program or release information related to the accreditation process and how students were informed about it.

The college has been in Dayton more than 150 years, but also is part of the rapidly expanding for-profit education industry that has come under national scrutiny for issues with recruiting, high costs and programs of mixed quality.

Miami-Jacobs’ surgery technology program at the Dayton campus now has accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, but programs in Columbus and Sharonville do not. Miami-Jacobs also has campuses in Troy and Springboro.

The accreditation process for many allied health programs is done in secret and can be tricky because schools are often required to have students enrolled in a program before they can apply for accreditation. Typically, the goal is to earn accreditation as the first students complete the program.

Both campuses have applied for satellite campus status, Keith Orloff, executive director of partner agency the Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting said. The Columbus campus was visited in June 2010 while Sharonville was visited in May 2011. Accreditation typically takes a year and a school cannot earn accreditation until one class is at least halfway through the program.

The next time the accrediting body will consider granting approval is in November and accreditation is not guaranteed, said Orloff.

Until the school receives accreditation, any graduates will be unable to take the national certification. “A lot of places require that you be certified,” said Dickinson, who has been rebuffed by employers over certification. “They led me to believe it was (accredited) and we didn’t find out it wasn’t until we were almost finished.”

Miami-Jacobs would not discuss how many students were in the program, but Walker, Miller and Dickinson said there were nearly 100 at the Columbus location with some nearing graduation. Tuition, fees and other costs for the program ran the three more than $30,000 each, they said.

The school has had repeated problems with the different groups that oversee its health programs. Last year, Miami-Jacobs lost accreditation of its respiratory care program after the school dropped an appeal with the accrediting body. In January, the Ohio Board of Nursing voted to withdraw conditional approval of the college’s practical nursing program after staff had uncovered problems since the programs inception.

Miami-Jacobs went to court to block that ruling and a Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge ordered the nursing board to reconsider its decision. The nursing board’s appeal of that action is still pending.

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