For-Profit Colleges Draw Complaints

By Brenda Flanagan

“This is a huge joke. Anthem needs to be ashamed of themselves,” said Tamara Mays.

Mays attends Anthem Institute’s campus in Jersey City, where she hoped to earn certification as a medical assistant. But the former U.S. Marine just discovered Anthem is closing its doors — leaving students dumfounded and diploma-less.

“They are so full of crap,” Mays said. “This school, they just take money from people, they make them believe they’re getting ready to get somewhere or get a job and they don’t get anything.”

Well, they do get financial aid — education loans that went straight into Anthem’s corporate pocket, but that students still have to pay back. Thousands of dollars.

“Every person’s different. I heard $17,000, $18,000. Like, it depends,” said Anthem student Diana Perez. “Everybody’s stressed out.”

Anthem’s a controversial for-profit college — unlike non-profits such as Rutgers or Montclair State.

It’s got 40 campuses nationwide, four here in New Jersey — at Jersey City, Parsippany, North Brunswick and Cherry Hill — serving about 1,200 students seeking certification as therapists and medical aides. The Jersey campuses will close Sept. 15.

“To be honest I feel so bad about it because it’s our careers, our future,” said Anthem student Rudis Gomez.

“Anthem is trying to find ‘teach out’ partners to carry out the remainder of students’ educations,” says Spokesman Ryan Toohey who explained Anthem’s closing 13 campuses due to “regulatory changes, declining enrollment and the need to stem cash-flow challenges.”

Critics of for-profit colleges have said for years that they siphon off students’ federal financial aid, but that many graduates have a hard time getting a job and struggle to pay off school loans.

Meanwhile, Everest Institute in South Plainfield — owned by embattled for-profit Corinthian Colleges — is up for sale.

Corinthian cut a deal with the federal Department of Education to sell or phase out its campuses nationwide. “There were not any allegations of wrongdoing,” says Corinthian Spokesman Kent Jenkins; but Corinthian still faces separate lawsuits filed by the California and Massachusetts state Attorneys General, alleging “false and predatory advertising,” that left few students with jobs, but most with “exorbitant student loan debt.”

Many Anthem students have the same complaint.

“That’s why they act so nice to get you in here — because everybody’s a dollar sign. They couldn’t care less if you have a job or not,” Mays said.

Mays paid $20 at a different school to get certified in CPR. She hopes to get her medical certificate soon.

Anthem wouldn’t comment on student complaints.