Ashworth College has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges it misrepresented to students that they would get the training and credentials needed to switch careers or get a new job, and that the course credits they earned would transfer to other schools. In reality, many programs offered by the for-profit institution did not meet state requirements for desired careers, and the claims made about credit transfers were often not true.
“When schools promise students they can transfer course credits or get a better job after completing their programs, they’d better be able to back up those claims,” said Jessica Rich, Director, FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Ashworth College didn’t tell the truth when it made those promises to prospective students.”
According to the Commission’s complaint, the Professional Career Development Institute, LLC, doing business as Ashworth College, violated the FTC Act by deceptively marketing its online college degree and career-training programs. The FTC alleges some degrees and programs offered by Ashworth College failed to meet the basic educational requirements set by state licensing boards for careers or jobs such as real estate appraisers, home inspectors, elementary school educators, massage practitioners, and more. The FTC also alleges the institution claimed that its credits would transfer even though it lacked supporting data that other colleges and universities would accept their credits.
Tuition at Ashworth College ranges from hundreds to several thousand dollars. Ashworth College does not accept student loans, and students are required to pay tuition in full or make monthly payments. However, it does accept military benefits including GI Bill payments, and has directed some of its advertising to military servicemembers and their families.
The proposed stipulated court order prohibits Ashworth College from misrepresenting that:
- completing Ashworth’s program will qualify students to obtain vocational licenses without any additional training or experience;
- Ashworth’s programs provide all the training and credentials required to switch careers or obtain a job in a new field;
- there will be job security or steady employment for consumers completing its programs; and that
- course credits are generally recognized by, and accepted, by other postsecondary institutions.
The order also includes an $11 million judgment, which is suspended based on the institution’s inability to pay.
Students interested in pursuing a higher education should check out the FTC’s updated guidance, Choosing a College: Questions to Ask. Commission staff also has a new post, An Unlikely Commencement Address, on the Business Center Blog.
The Commission vote authorizing the filing of the complaint and the proposed stipulated court order was 5-0. The complaint and proposed order were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on May 26, 2015.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.