Former students say they were duped by online nursing school – NBC4 Washington

A group of former nursing students, many of whom are based in Maryland, are screaming scandal after their online nursing courses were abruptly canceled earlier this year, leaving them scrambling for thousands of dollars in reimbursement and seek answers.

An investigation by the News4 I-Team found that the Florida-based school Jay College of Health Sciences should not have offered online classes to students outside of the Sunshine State at all.

“The reason I chose this school was because it was online,” said a woman from Montgomery County, Md., Who said she had been enrolled in her practical nursing program for some time. months only when it was suddenly canceled earlier this year. She asked News4 not to use her name for fear of reprisal. “It was just very devastating to me that this all happened – the way it happened.”

The I-Team’s month-long investigation found that while Jay College is approved by Florida authorities to teach classes there in person and has obtained temporary emergency approval to offer online programs in Due to the pandemic, state education officials said it had not been approved to offer distance learning to students across the country.

Maryland higher education officials said I-Team Jay College has also not received the approval required to offer nursing programs to Maryland students online or in person.

Additionally, the I-Team found that local graduates would not be able to sit for Maryland Nursing Licensing Exams, because even though some state nursing boards recognize Jay College degrees, the Maryland Board of Nursing does not include the school among its in-state or out-of-state programs.

The man from Maryland who runs Jay College, Ejike Asiagbunam, did not respond to the I-Team’s multiple phone, email and in-person inquiries. Maryland business records show Asiagbunam is also listed as the registered agent for a nursing exam preparation center in Maryland called the Living Spring Institute, but no one opened the door when the I-Team recently hit.

Several former Jay College students are now calling for an investigation into the school which they say has taken advantage of students, many of whom are African immigrants, by not revealing the school was operating online without approval.

Their complaints come as the country grapples with a critical shortage of nurses amid a global pandemic – a reason some of the nearly 10 students interviewed by News4 cited as the reason they signed up for the program. nursing online.

“I just wanted to help people and I just felt that going into the nursing program was another level of helping people,” said the Montgomery County woman.

The majority of the students – many of whom were contacted by the I-Team during its investigation – asked News4 not to share their names. They live in multiple states, but most are from Maryland and said they were unaware they would not be eligible to sit for the Maryland nursing license exams with a degree from the school.

“They are literally preying on the people who hope and dream of becoming a nurse,” said Beanca Fries, a New York woman who said she enrolled in the school’s online registered nursing program at the end of the year. Last year.

Fries said she pays $ 1,000 per month for online instruction, believing it to be a quick way to become a registered nurse.

“What made it so believable was because there was no… at the time of in-person classes due to the pandemic,” she said.

Fries provided News4 with several screenshots that she said showed the online classes in progress. She said she withdrew from school earlier this year after teachers and staff started bickering publicly on the online platform and classes were cut short, causing her asked about his professionalism.

Fries said she repeatedly asked Asiagbunam for answers about her concerns, but to no avail. She said she ultimately received a refund of $ 7,000 – via a cash app – but still wanted to do more to crack down on schools operating beyond their authority..

“The more I started looking, I started to realize that this man just isn’t who he claims to be. School is not what he says it is,” he said. she declared.

Complaints to the attorneys general of Maryland and Florida, obtained by the I-Team through open case requests, reflect similar concerns.

In an anonymous complaint filed with the Florida Attorney General in May, a person who describes himself as a former Jay College student called on state officials to investigate the school and alleged: “Nurses in this school are released into the labor market without qualifications. It is dangerous for patients and the public, especially during a pandemic. ”

In 2018, a Baltimore woman filed a complaint with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, saying she attended an open house for the school in Hyattsville, Md., But became concerned when she learned that the school was not accredited. In the file, the woman said Asiagbunam told students the school was “approved” by the Maryland Board of Nursing.

In a statement to the I-Team, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education said that students who wish to file a complaint against Jay College for “offering nursing courses online without any necessary approval or authorization.” should contact the Florida Commission for Independent Education.

But the state has yet to say whether the school is under investigation or whether it could face penalties if the allegations are true.

A spokeswoman for the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), which oversees distance education programs offered in the state, said in a statement that her staff were “in close contact” with their counterparts at the Florida Department of Education regarding complaints about Jay College. The spokeswoman advised students in Maryland to file a complaint with Florida first, as it is the school’s regulatory authority.

“MHEC will follow up with the Florida Department of Education with respect to any further findings,” the spokesperson said.

The spokeswoman said Jay College would need Florida’s approval first to offer nursing courses online before applying to MHEC to teach nursing courses online to students in Maryland or to teach from a location in Maryland. The school has not yet requested to do so, she said.

Like several students interviewed by the I-Team, the Montgomery County woman said she was struggling to get reimbursement from the school. She said that when the school later repaid its investment of $ 4,150, the check provided was bounced.

After harassing Asiagbunam, she said she finally got her money back. She showed News4 two wire transfers indicating they had been sent from Jay College to her bank account in July.

Still, she said she couldn’t make up for her wasted time.

This is why the head of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) said prospective students should do their homework to ensure that online schools are not only approved to operate, but that they are accredited, therefore. which ensures that they receive a quality education.

Dr Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, who heads CHEA, did not comment specifically on Jay College, but said, “So many times the public would have invested money and time in these unaccredited programs that didn’t. absolutely no validity in the real world. “

The Montgomery County woman said she plans to pursue her dream of nursing, but will enroll in community college.

Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Katie Leslie, shot and edited by Jeff Piper and Steve Jones.

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