The Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid is removing Florida Career College, a for-profit chain with 11 campuses, from the federal financial aid system, the agency announced Tuesday following an investigation that found numerous violations.
The college, which is owned by International Education Corporation, will not be allowed to enroll any new students using federal student aid, though current students will be able to receive aid and continue their programs through Sept. 30 if Florida Career College adheres to several conditions.
Nearly 5,000 students were enrolled in the college’s short-term programs as of late 2022, according to the department.
“Federal Student Aid is holding Florida Career College accountable for taking advantage of some of the most vulnerable students,” FSA chief operating officer Richard Cordray said in a news release. “Despite the school’s actions, they have an opportunity to do right by some of these students.”
The institution will have to make monthly reports to the department, provide an updated teach-out plan along with a letter of credit, and clearly communicate with students about their status and operations to maintain access to federal aid until Sept. 30. If the college doesn’t agree to those conditions, it will lose access to the aid April 30. The college can seek reconsideration of Federal Student Aid’s decision by April 25.
“We are deeply disappointed in the Department of Education’s myopic and misguided decision,” a spokesperson for the college, Joe Cockrell, said in a statement. “The DOE [sic] risks harming thousands of students seeking economic stability and a better life. For more than 40 years, our singular focus has been quality career training programs that meet or exceed all state and Federal regulations so that people can find a good job in their chosen career path. We intend to fight this unjust and inequitable decision vigorously on behalf of our students and the communities we serve.”
Cockrell added that the college had met the requirements set by accreditors and state and federal regulators and pointed to the institution’s job-placement rate. He wrote that 77 percent of students were placed in jobs related to their programs of study last year.
The department said its investigation found that Florida Career College broke the rules governing how to administer the ability-to-benefit test, which is used to determine whether a student who does not have a high school diploma can benefit from a college education and receive federal student aid. Florida Career College used the test to enroll nearly half of its students since 2018, according to the news release.
College proctors filled in or changed answers after students finished their tests, helped students during testing or took tests for them, and permitted students to use calculators in violation of testing rules, according to the department’s announcement. College officials were aware of and encouraged violations of the testing process, the investigation found.
“FCC’s pervasive violations of the rules and regulations governing the ATB testing process harmed students,” department officials said in the release.
Federal Student Aid decided to reject Florida Career College’s application to continue to participate in the federal student aid programs because of the testing violations, failure to meet the fiduciary standard of conduct and failure to meet the standards of participation. (The agency denied 10 applications for recertification in fiscal year 2022.)