The trade school ATI has campuses in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Florida, and Texas, including four schools in the Dallas area. They offer programs in a variety of fields, including healthcare, business administration, information technology, and the skilled trades. ATI claims a 70 percent new-graduate placement rate, but that’s not the whole story.
In order to receive funding from the state of Texas, vocational schools like ATI must meet a 60 percent minimum job-placement rate. ATI exceeded that rate, but it did so by lying. ATI made up false jobs and false employers for its students. For example:
- ATI counted business students working as cashiers and retail sales people as employed in their training field.
- ATI bribed a worker at a manufacturing company to tell authorities that ATI graduates worked at the business.
- ATI created false business cards for students that could not be placed.
- ATI employed graduating students for one day after their graduation date in order to count them as employed.
ATI also misled students:
- ATI enrolled students with felony convictions in health care programs and criminal justice programs without telling the students that they would not be able to work in those fields with a record.
- ATI faked high school diplomas so students could enroll in their programs.
- ATI told students who dropped out that their student loans would be forgiven if they re-enrolled. In fact, federal student loans are deferred while students are taking classes, but they must be paid back six months after schooling is completed.
- ATI employees reported false information on student financial aid forms in order to enable students to take out additional federal loans.
In addition, ATI lied to potential students about the placement rate, the jobs they could get after graduating an ATI program, and the salary they could expect to earn.
In July, the Texas Workforce Commission required ATI to stop enrolling new student at its 16 campuses in Texas. In September, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil complaint in a Texas federal court charging the for-profit school for misleading students and defrauding the government.