What to Know
- One of the largest for-profit colleges in the state of New York has been sued for alleged deceptive and predatory practices
- Berkeley College is accused of violating consumer and local debt collection rules, the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) says
- In a statement to NBC 4 New York, Berkeley College denies the allegations
One of the largest for-profit colleges in the state of New York has been sued for alleged deceptive and predatory practices that violate consumer and local debt collection rules, the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) announced Friday.
DCA’s lawsuit, filed in New York County Supreme Court, alleges a number of violations and wide-ranging consumer harm. It also seeks to end Berkeley’s unlawful practices and restore any illegal profits back to consumers.
A DCA investigation allegedly revealed, among other things, that the college’s recruiters said whatever the prospective student wanted to hear, “especially when it comes to academic programs, employment, transfer credits, and federal student loans – regardless of the truth – to convince them to enroll,” DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas said.
“For-profit colleges are businesses, and like most businesses, their top priority is generating profits,” Salas said, adding that the college’s alleged “aggressive recruiting tactics are designed to prey on the hopes and dreams of consumers seeking improved career prospects and greater financial security to better care for themselves and their families.”
The lawsuit accuses Berkeley College of: misleading students about financial aid, including federal financial aid; tricking students into taking out “payment plan” loans directly from the institution even if the student wants to pay tuition balances up front; and deceiving students about institutional grants that require students to borrow the maximum amount of loans available to students through the federal government before Berkeley will award the grant, which does not need to be repaid.
Additionally, the lawsuit accuses the college of deceiving students about transfer credits, majors, and careers, as well as violating local debt collection laws by concealing its identity from former students when collecting debt, including debt that is not owed.
“For-profit colleges are primarily concerned with their bottom line, not the welfare of their students,” Council Member Rafael Espinal said in a statement. “At a time when student debt is soaring, it is unacceptable that schools like Berkeley are preying on people – many of them from low-income backgrounds – seeking to better their lives.”
DCA encourages any consumer who believes they may have experienced any wrongdoing by Berkeley College to contact the agency by calling 311 or by filing a complaint at nyc.gov/dca.
In a statement to NBC 4 New York, Berkeley College denies the allegations and says it will "vigourously defend the College aganst the DCA's accusations."
"We repeatedly sought the opportunity to review any allegations with the DCA. However, DCA officials denied our requests to discuss the claims before they pursued this action. Berkeley College has provided more than 52,000 pages of documentation in accordance with the DCA’s requests," the college's statement says, adding that the institution has an 87-year history of serving students "under the highest principles."