FRANKFORT, Ky. (Legal Newsline) -- Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said Tuesday that his office has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against National College of Kentucky Inc. over allegations that the for-profit school misrepresented job placement numbers.
This marks the third lawsuit Conway has filed as part of his ongoing investigation of the for-profit college industry.
The three-count complaint filed in Fayette Circuit Court alleges that National College -- which operates campuses in Lexington, Louisville, Florence, Pikeville, Richmond and Danville -- violated the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act by making false, misleading and deceptive disclosures regarding the rate at which its students were able to obtain employment in their field of study.
"This type of deception must stop," Conway said in a statement. "National College is putting its bottom line before the hopes and dreams of students who are trying to better their lives.
"The reality is that more and more students are leaving for-profit schools with high debt loads and without the high-paying jobs they were promised."
The attorney general's complaint details that since at least 2008, National College has publicly represented that students achieve "success" in obtaining employment at rates that are significantly higher than the job placement rates National actually reports to its accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.
For example, Conway's complaint alleges that during or before 2008 and continuing through at least December 2010 -- when he issued National a subpoena and civil investigative demand -- National represented on its website certain "successful employment" figures for graduates of its Lexington, Louisville, Pikeville and Richmond campuses.
Those numbers on the website are significantly higher than the job placement numbers National was reporting to ACICS, the attorney general alleges.
Conway also alleges that sometime between Dec. 15, 2010 and March 2011, after his investigation began, National changed its webpage -- lowering the numbers for "successful" employment and added a disclaimer for the first time that the numbers represent graduates "who are employed in any field."
The attorney general's complaint says the website's current representations concerning "successful" placements are still unfair, false, misleading and deceptive because the disclaimer is not plain and does not undo the false impression that the numbers represent employment in the careers studied.
Conway's complaint seeks an order enjoining National from violating the law, civil penalties of $2,000 per violation and recovery of investigative costs and attorneys fees.
The lawsuit follows efforts by National College to block the attorney general's investigation.
National filed a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court in January, claiming that Conway's investigation was not supported by sufficient evidence of wrongdoing.
Circuit Judge Philip Shepherd ruled in the attorney general's favor, finding it is "in the public interest that an investigation should be made to ascertain whether (the plaintiff) in fact has engaged in, is engaging in or is about to engage in, any act or practice declared to be unlawful" by Kentucky law.
National has appealed that ruling to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, where the matter is pending.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.