City vocational school cancels classes parent firm under probe

January 06, 1994|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writer

A downtown Baltimore vocational school that has failed to pay its employees for the past month yesterday canceled classes and sent workers and students home.

The closure of the PTC Career Institute, located at the corner of Baltimore and Calvert streets, was called temporary. However, the school's parent company, Philadelphia Training Center Corp., appears to be in severe financial trouble and is under investigation by federal officials.

The Baltimore school has about 30 employees. Its 160 students pay between $3,600 and $4,800 for five to seven months training as nursing assistants, security guards and office computer operators.

School director Susan Sherwood told students and staff yesterday that classed would be canceled until next Wednesday with the expectation that the parent company might be sold before then.

Two weeks ago, the state of Pennsylvania revoked PTC's operating license after serious financial and management problems at the Philadelphia campus.

In response, the U.S. Department of Education last week banned PTC from offering any federal loans or grants to students at any of its operations or locations, which could mean the end of the school.

About 95 percent of PTC's students receive federal assistance, according to Ms. Sherwood.

More allegations against PTC are expected soon.

"The department is reviewing new information of serious violations of the law by PTC," said Stephanie Babyak, a spokeswoman for the Education Department in Washington.

A federal audit found that PTC's national operation had more than twice as many liabilities as assets in 1992.

The company also owed Maryland employee withholding taxes, penalties and interest exceeding $175,000 last September, according to the Education Department. Figures on how much of that had been repaid were unavailable yesterday.

Ms. Sherwood, who has been director of the Baltimore campus since 1988, said she believes the school's problems were mainly caused by the tax evasion convictions of PTC's Philadelphia owners, Richard and Rimona Friedberg, in 1992 and 1993.

"At this point, I don't think we're ever going to be left alone or be successful until the present owners are no longer involved," Ms. Sherwood said.

Efforts to reach the Friedbergs or other PTC officials in Philadelphia were unsuccessful yesterday.

Ms. Sherwood said that PTC may be sold to a New York investment company. But state and federal officials said it is unlikely that a buyer could be found while PTC is banned from receiving federal student aid.

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