Updated:ORLANDO, Fla. —
Thousands of Central Floridians shelled out big money for courses at career colleges to make themselves more marketable in tough times.
But 9 Investigates found some feel the schools left them with little more than big debt and empty promises.
In 2004, Kristin Camerato enrolled at Keiser University Daytona Beach with dreams of a nursing career. Today, she said she has nothing to show for it but $21,000 in debt; no degree and no job in her field of choice.
"They ran circles around me. What they did to me, I wouldn't wish on anyone," said Camerato.
David Chandler was a student at Keiser's Melbourne campus.
"It's just a lot of financial headache. And, just questions I never got answers for," said Chandler.
Those two unhappy Keiser students are not alone. A 111-page file details similar concerns from other students, concerns so rampant in the industry that the state
attorney general opened investigations into Keiser and five other career colleges.
All the schools faced claims of misrepresenting financial aid and using deceptive practices to recruit. Nationwide enrollment at such schools jumped from 365,000 in the mid-2000s -- before the economic downturn -- to 1.8 million in 2010.
According to federal reviewers, students at for-profit schools received as much as $24 billion in federal grants and loans in 2009 alone.
Note: Not all of the career colleges investigated by the Attorney General are for-profit.
At Everest College, one local woman told investigators unnecessary courses "wasted almost three semesters of my time that I feel is unfair and costly."
Another local student complained, "I have $30,000 in student loans," and said she is "currently working delivery pizza."
The allegations are similar at Concorde Career Colleges, Sanford Brown College, Argosy University and University of Phoenix. All of those schools told 9 Investigates they are cooperating with investigators.
The attorney general's investigation into Keiser University ended last week. In the agreement, Keiser makes "no admission that they engaged in any wrongdoing or committed any violation" of the law, but the school will re-train certain unsatisfied students.
"They know they did wrong with me. They definitely know that they did wrong with me," said Camerato.
Under the agreement, Keiser will pay no fines, but it will pay $175,000 to cover the cost of the
attorney general's investigation.
Former students may be eligible for the retraining if they can show they weren't satisfied or couldn't find a job and attended in 2008 or after. That time qualification excludes