Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson told me she didn’t know for sure how many cases were involved in the lawsuit her office filed against Education Management Corporation or how many people were affected. She did say, however, that the state is still receiving complaints and looking into them.
With her were two people who suggested Art Institutes International had used some hardball and deceptive tactics in recruiting.
Susan Smart of Lakeville says that in early 2006, she and her 22-year-old daughter, who she said is “mildly developmentally impaired” toured the school. They thought it was just an informational session, and told a recruiter there about her daughter’s condition. She said a recruiter there took her daughter in for some testing.
Smart told me:
“She emerged from the office and, with a packet of paperwork. We came home. She had signed a legal, binding contract for $14,000 to start school in three weeks. I was very upset, and, of course, wasn’t upset with her because she didn’t really understand what they were doing.”
She get out of the contract after making use of the 5-day opt-out period for contracts, but told me:
“The worst part was preying on a person who is very excited to go to school and who is mildly vulnerable and taking advantage of someone like that and knowing. They knew. And that’s inexcusable, in my opinion.”
Another man, Dustin McIntyre, 19, of Inver Grove Heights, said the pressure he received to enroll was akin to football recruitment.
He said he was told that his digital film and video production program would be accredited in a year, but after about three terms, he said, talk of accreditation melted away. So he dropped out, and still owes about $13,000.