BEAUMONT - A nation-wide class action was filed on Dec. 12 in a Beaumont federal court, accusing wide-spread misconduct on the part of multiple entities involved with the abrupt closing of multiple college campuses across the country.
The lawsuit, filed by Beaumont’s The Ferguson Law Firm, documents how last week’s abrupt and unannounced closings left thousands upon thousands of students “stripped of their opportunity to complete their programs” and saddled with no refund of paid tuition. Many students also have outstanding school loans.
“What could be sadder than a person, who is trying to better his or herself with education, having the school door slammed shut in his face? But that’s only part of it,” said Mark Sparks, lead counsel for the plaintiffs and an ownership partner at The Ferguson Law Firm.
“The door gets slammed shut, it’s three weeks before Christmas, and you cannot finish the semester, you cannot get a transcript and they won’t refund your money. And you still have a student loan. To make matters worse, you are out of money and have almost no time to apply anywhere else.”
The three named plaintiffs are all local residents.
Karina Garcia has signed a contract to pursue a medical assistant program. Her tuition cost was $17,250 and she had paid $3,300 towards her tuition and books.
Maria Mata was also pursuing the medical assistant program. She had paid nearly $12,000 towards her tuition and books.
Yanellis Ledee was also pursuing a similar program and had paid approximately $7,000.
The potential class includes all similarly-situated and disadvantaged students of any of Education Corporation of America’s schools. The lawsuit also seeks to include all employees who have lost their jobs.
“These three people did nothing wrong,” said Sparks. “We aim to get them fully compensated for every loss, direct and indirect.”
Defendants in the lawsuit are Virginia College, LLC (and the owner of Brightwood College), Education Corporation of America (ECA), Stuart C. Reed (the CEO of Education Corporation of America), Willis Stein & Partners, LLC (the private equity firm that owns ECA), and Aaron Barksdale (president of Brightwood College’s Beaumont location). Virginia College is a wholly owned entity of ECA.
“We believe this was an elaborate and well-financed shell game, a con game disguised as a college,” said Tim Ferguson, an attorney with The Ferguson Law Firm and co-counsel for the plaintiffs.
“You have privately-funded education masquerading under different corporate names or entities, playing leapfrog with everyone’s tuition and loan money. When you connect the dots, you get to a three-billion-dollar private equity firm in Chicago. The defendants did nothing but use our clients’ tuition to fund their country club memberships and golden parachutes.”
The Ferguson Law Firm maintains offices in Beaumont, Texas and prides itself on providing each client the best representation possible. With a legacy of record-breaking verdicts and settlements and local, state and nationwide honors and awards, the law firm still focuses on each client and each case as if it was the only case, a press release states.