Feds: Elgin/Gurnee school lied about job placement

 
 
Updated 3/8/2016 7:09 PM
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  • The U.S. Department of Education's decision to end federal Title IV financial aid for Computer Systems Institute affects students at its campuses in Elgin, pictured, Gurnee and Chicago.

      The U.S. Department of Education's decision to end federal Title IV financial aid for Computer Systems Institute affects students at its campuses in Elgin, pictured, Gurnee and Chicago. Elena Ferrarin | Staff Photographer

After a federal investigation revealed Computer Systems Institute lied about its job placement rates, the school's financial aid is being halted and its accreditation is at risk, officials said.

The school said on its website it would contest the U.S. Department of Education's decision to end its federal Title IV financial aid effective Jan. 31, which affects students at its Elgin, Gurnee and Chicago campuses. School representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

Computer Systems Institute was granted an extension through March 14 to present "responsive materials," which it hasn't done yet, a department spokesman said.

The school claimed to have placed students with two health-care companies in Chicago, Dream Team Hope Health Care Services and Home Health Care Consultants, the department's denial letter states. However, investigators determined those companies did not appear to exist and interviewed 18 students, 16 of whom said they weren't employed by the companies.

Two said they were "hired" to pass out fliers, but only one of them was paid, at the rate of $100 for 80 hours of work, the letter says.

Computer Systems Institute enrolls about 2,600 students and received about $20 million in federal funding in 2014-15, according to a Department of Education news release.

"Unfortunately, some schools violate their trust through deceptive marketing practices and defraud taxpayers by giving out student aid inappropriately. These unscrupulous institutions use questionable business practices or outright lie to both students and the federal government," said Ted Mitchell, education department undersecretary.

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools will hold a hearing early next month to determine whether to revoke the school's accreditation, which expires Dec. 31, 2017, said Tony Bieda, the council's vice president of external affairs.

Criteria for accreditation for for-profit schools such as Computer Systems Institute includes student retention, placement and licensure pass rates, Bieda said. The school also will have to demonstrate its current students can continue and complete their course of study, he said.

The federal decision most directly affects students enrolled in Computer Systems Institute's business, health care and networking programs, which participate in Title IV programs, the school's website states. "CSI intends to continue to offer these academic programs to currently enrolled students and will make every effort to ensure that they have a great academic experience including the ability to enjoy all the resources CSI offers, such as transportation support and certification vouchers."

Health care student Maritza Ramirez of Elgin said she hadn't heard about any funding or accreditation issues. She is graduating this month from the school, which is helping her craft her resume and practice her interview skills, she said.

Jerry Yglecis of Elgin said he graduated from Computer Systems Institute in 2011 and earned computer certifications, but the school was poorly organized and not worth the $11,000 he spent. Lately, the school had been "bombarding" him with emails regarding helping him with job placement, he said.

"I told them, 'You guys didn't help me get a job. I'm still at my current job,'" he said.

A majority of the school's funding comes from tuition from international students, not federal Title IV money, Bieda said. The Illinois Board of Higher Education recently granted the school's request to continue enrolling non-Title IV students, he said. Board representatives did not return requests for comment.

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