U.S. Education Department Forces Resignation of Executives Amidst For-Profit College Scandal


In a landmark development, the U.S. Education Department has orchestrated the resignation of two senior executives at the International Education Corporation (IEC), the parent company overseeing the troubled for-profit chain, Florida Career College (FCC).

This historic move comes as part of a settlement agreement and marks the first time the department has wielded such authority, ushering in a new era of accountability in the for-profit education sector.

U.S. Education Department Forces Resignation of Executives Amidst For-Profit College Scandal
(Photo : Pexels / Sora Shimazaki)

The Scandal Unveiled: FCC's Misconduct and Cheating Allegations

At the center of this controversy is FCC, a chain of 11 campuses slated for closure on February 15. The U.S. Education Department's investigation, initiated in April, uncovered compelling evidence pointing to cheating on the "ability to benefit" (ATB) tests by FCC officials. These tests determine the eligibility of students without a high school diploma for federal financial aid, a critical lifeline for many seeking postsecondary education.

Kristen Donoghue, Chief Enforcement Officer at the Office of Federal Student Aid, revealed, "What caused us to take unprecedented steps was evidence showing that FCC was focused on maximizing enrollment and therefore Title IV dollars at all costs." Title IV, a part of the Higher Education Act, authorizes federal financial aid programs. FCC's alleged misconduct, driven by a relentless pursuit of enrollment numbers, jeopardized the educational and financial futures of thousands of students.

The consequence of the investigation was a decision by the Education Department in April to cut off FCC's access to federal financial aid by September. The initial closure deadline was later extended to the end of January, allowing enrolled students to complete their programs. Federal data indicates that approximately 12,000 students were enrolled in FCC's programs across the 11 campuses in 2021.

READ ALSO: U.S. Education Department Expands Discrimination Investigations To Arizona State, Northwestern, Yale, And Abraham Lincoln University

Unraveling the Settlement: Accountability Measures and Resignations

The settlement agreement with IEC not only addresses the FCC debacle but also encompasses ongoing investigations into two other IEC-owned chains-United Education Institute and UEI College. The gravity of FCC's transgressions prompted the U.S. Education Department to demand the resignation of two senior executives at IEC-a move unprecedented in the department's history.

IEC initially contested the department's allegations, but the settlement brings an end to the company's appeal, solidifying the decision. Under the agreement, IEC commits not to appeal the FCC decision and to extend a letter of credit to cover any liabilities associated with the closure, capped at $6,015,824.

CEO Fardad Fateri, who has been at the helm of IEC since 2008, emphasized in a statement that the settlement represents the "very best outcome" for students, employers, and campus communities. Despite the company's initial resistance, the settlement showcases IEC's dedication to transparency, accountability, and regulatory compliance.

Additionally, the settlement introduces provisional certification for United Education Institute and UEI College for three years. This certification subjects the institutions to stringent rules, including blocking the use of ATB tests for financial aid qualification and requiring the preservation of recruitment materials and student complaint records. These measures aim to enhance oversight and protect the interests of students and the integrity of federal student aid programs.

Setting a Precedent: The Department's Commitment to Accountability

The Education Department's resolute commitment to accountability is evident in this groundbreaking settlement. While settlements with the department are not uncommon, this agreement stands out due to its unprecedented provisions and the enforcement of resignations of top executives. The department's proactive approach aims to ensure that individuals at the highest echelons of for-profit education companies are held accountable for any wrongdoing.

As the Federal Student Aid's Enforcement Office continues to investigate allegations of wrongdoing, this landmark settlement sets a new standard for accountability in the for-profit education sector. By not only addressing the immediate issue with FCC but also implementing stringent measures for other IEC-owned institutions, the department sends a clear message that misconduct will not be tolerated.

The settlement agreement with IEC marks a watershed moment in the efforts to regulate and hold accountable the for-profit education sector. The U.S. Education Department's decisive actions reflect a commitment to protecting the interests of students and maintaining the integrity of federal financial aid programs. The repercussions of this settlement are likely to resonate throughout the industry, ushering in a new era of heightened scrutiny and accountability for those entrusted with shaping the educational futures of thousands of students.

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