Britt v. Florida Career College

Information for Students

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Overview

Who Is Involved In This Case?

Mr. Britt and Ms. Laurance brought this lawsuit in April 2020, on behalf of themselves and a class of current and former students against Florida Career College (FCC). FCC is a for-profit college chain that operates multiple campuses in Florida and Texas.

 

What Is This Case About?

The Florida Career College business model is simple. It uses high-pressure tactics and false statements to induce students to enroll in career-training programs.  These students are forced to borrow thousands of dollars in federal student loans to pay FCC’s inflated tuition.  FCC profits off this tuition money. Instead of investing in students’ education, it lines its own pockets and invests primarily in recruitment and advertising in order to scam more people. FCC targets students based on race, focusing its predatory marketing and deceptive recruitment practices on Black students, exacerbating the racial wealth gap.

FCC targets Black students for its high-priced, low-value product in many ways, including:

  • Using Black models in many of its advertisements;
  • Targeting students on Facebook and Instagram, where advertisers can target based on interest in “African Americans” and/or “African-American Culture”;
  • Advertising on radio stations with predominantly Black audiences;
  • Advertising on certain public buses, bus benches, and bus stops; and
  • Conducting outreach at local high schools with a high percentage of Black students.

Because of these tactics, as of Fall 2018, every FCC campus had a larger percentage of Black students than the population of the city where it is located. For example, FCC in Hialeah has 55% Black student enrollment, even though the city’s Black population is just 2.5%. FCC in Margate has 70% Black student enrollment; Margate itself has a 28.6% Black population.

 

Where and When Was This Case Filed?

The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Monday, April 20, 2020.

“Florida Career College was a scam and a total waste of time and money. Their ads made me think that the HVAC program would give me a good career, but like everything else they told me, it was a lie. They didn’t teach even basics, and they didn’t care. Almost all of my classmates were minorities and many barely even had high school level reading skills. Their business is all about taking advantage of people who are just trying to better their lives. It’s not right and they shouldn’t be able to get away with it."

Former FCC student Kareem Britt

"FCC talked up how the school would give you a career, not just a job, and they convinced me that the medical assisting program was the only way to get to the next level. But then I realized I was just a number to them. They didn't even try to hide it. Students got pulled out of classes all the time to talk about financial aid and they would pressure you to sign confusing papers on the spot. It made me sick to my stomach. I just want to make sure others aren't duped into this scam like I was."

Former FCC student Monique Laurence

“We can’t allow FCC to continue its predatory practices against individuals who were already facing significant economic hardship, especially during a time of such severe social and financial dislocation.”

Adam Schachter, Gelber Schachter & Greenberg

“For-profit colleges, that prey on particularly vulnerable student populations by promising a better life meanwhile sticking them with outsized debt, no real chance for employment, and ultimately financial failure, are the epitome of predators that need to be brought to justice particularly in times of economic uncertainty, such as these.”

Zach Bower, Carella Byrne Cecchi Olstein Brody & Agnello P.C.

“For-profit colleges have a long history of perpetuating racial and economic injustices. FCC targeted Black students with a predatory product using the for-profit college playbook of lies and high-pressure recruitment, and left them in debt they could never repay. Race-conscious recruitment can be a tool to provide opportunity and promote diversity. But FCC’s racial targeting for predatory products is discrimination and violates the law. We must hold FCC accountable for its discriminatory tactics.”

Toby Merrill, Project on Predatory Student Lending

Why This Case?

FCC peddles a predatory product to Black students, and does not provide the career training it promises. It leaves students in mountains of debt with no ability to pay it back. Only one of seventeen FCC programs led to gainful employment under the federal measure. The median annual earnings of students who were able to graduate and find employment in those seventeen programs were between $8,983 and $32,872.

FCC management trained recruiters to tell students that programs are full, even when they are not, in order to push students into programs that start earlier so FCC gets their student loan money sooner. Recruiters tout FCC’s ability to provide students with stable, lucrative careers, when in fact, all it provides is debt. Recruiters unscrupulously create an inaccurate image of the school regarding the students’ experiences and how the school improves students’ lives.

Case Updates

Six Months into 2020: Wins for Students and Fighting for Justice | Blog

Six months into 2020 and the Project on Predatory Student Lending has won a major lawsuit against the Department of Education in Vara v DeVos, and agreed to a proposed settlement in Sweet v DeVos. They’ve also continued to fight for justice in across other new pieces litigation this year.

Florida For-Profit Colleges Sued for Selling Predatory Product and Targeting Black Students | Press Release

A class action was filed against Florida-based for-profit college chain, Florida Career College (FCC), for selling a predatory product using false representations and high-pressure sales tactics that leave students in mountains of debt they cannot repay and systematically targeting Black students.

Case Documents

Defendants’ Reply in Support of Their Joint Motion to Compel Arbitration or in the Alternative to Dismiss

Defendants’ filed a reply in support of their motion to compel arbitration, or in the alternative, motion to dismiss.

Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Compel Arbitration, or, in the alternative, Motion to Dismiss

Plaintiffs’ filed their response opposing Defendants’ Motion to Compel Arbitration, or, in the alternative, Motion to Dismiss.

Defendants' Motion to Compel Arbitration or Motion to Dismiss

The Defendants' filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration or, in the alternative, Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Class Action Complaint.

Coverage

Left in the Lurch by Private Loans From For-Profit Colleges | New York Times

Ms. Campbell’s loan is a tiny fraction of the more than $30 million owed to Florida Career College’s parent company, the International Education Corporation. The company doesn’t care whether she, and thousands of others, ever fully pay it back. Its main reason for lending to people like her is so the company can operate its other, much more lucrative business model — reaping revenue from federal student aid. By law, a tenth of a for-profit school’s revenue must come from sources other than federal financial aid (loans, grants and other programs students use to pay for college) and loans like Ms. Campbell’s help them meet that quota.

Read More

Why Did The CARES Act Give More Money To Hair Schools Than To A Community College? | NBC News

After $14 billion was set aside for higher education in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, Houston Community College and the Paul Mitchell Schools both got financial relief. The Houston college, a public institution with nearly 60,000 students, received $28.3 million. The for-profit hair and cosmetology schools received $30.5 million, despite serving only 20,000 students.

Read More

Students Call College That Got Millions In Coronavirus Relief ‘A Sham’ | NPR

A for-profit college received millions of dollars from the federal government to help low-income students whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus outbreak, but that same school, Florida Career College (FCC), is also accused of defrauding students.

Read More