MIAMI HERALD: No H.S. diploma, no problem for some college recruiters

Career College Central Summary:

  • It’s a term that sounds like a form of street crime: “Snatch and grab.”
  • At Miami’s FastTrain College, that’s how some employees described the recruiting of students. Prosecutors say FastTrain’s recruiters, some of them former exotic dancers, would drive around poor neighborhoods trying to cajole the men on street corners or at bus stops into jumping into a car for a trip to the school.
  • “It’s called snatch and grab, man, snatch and grab, baby,” said Anthony Mincey, a former admissions director, on a phone call that was secretly recorded by federal investigators.
  • Mincey and three other employees at the for-profit college, including former CEO Alejandro Amor, are facing criminal charges of conspiracy and theft of government money. Regardless of the outcome, the federal trial — scheduled to begin in two months — promises to be a primer on how to fraudulently obtain federal education grants and loans.
  • The alleged fraud at the heart of the FastTrain case — improperly enrolling students who lack a high school diploma or its equivalent — has been an issue at other Florida for-profit colleges. Billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded financial aid are at stake.
  • At some for-profit colleges, students are allowed to enroll simply by stating they completed high school — without providing any sort of proof. The student just signs an “attestation” form that they have a diploma.
  • “Anyone can walk in there and say ‘I graduated from Orlando High School in 1987 or whatever,’ and that’s good enough,” said Pat Elston, a former recruiter for Southern Technical College.
  • For-profit colleges say their goal is a noble one: to provide college access for working adults and minorities. Southern Technical said it “does not knowingly enroll students who lack a high school diploma or GED equivalent, nor is such a process authorized or encouraged.”
  • Miami Dade and other community colleges say they, too, aim to provide open access, but MDC requires an official high school transcript.
  • “There has to be some structure to the process,” said MDC spokesman Juan Mendieta.
  • A recent Miami Herald investigation, Higher-Ed Hustle, highlighted the persistent allegations of taxpayer fraud dogging Florida’s for-profit college industry. At the Fort Lauderdale campus of now-defunct ATI Career Training Centers, a doctored Haitian high school diploma was allegedly used over and over to enroll ineligible students — with only the student’s name and graduation date changed.

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