Computer-networking school closes in Columbia

Students who had paid for courses say doors to office were locked

August 14, 2002|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Ameritrain Inc., a Pennsylvania-based computer network training company with offices around the country, has closed its Columbia office abruptly, stranding students who paid for courses.

Information on the company's Web site said it is moving its Atlanta, Columbia and Tysons Corner, Va., offices, but students in Columbia said they arrived at class to find the doors locked.

The company repeated tactics it used last month when it closed an office in Charlotte, N.C., and one in Pennsylvania. Students there said they attempted to contact Steven H. Gouveia, the company's vice president and general manager, but received no response.

Calls to Gouveia by The Sun were not returned, and no one answered at corporate headquarters. The school provides certified training for computer network specialists, software specialists and help desk or support staff. Courses can run from three weeks to six months and can cost more than $10,000.

Thomas Brainsky, who got an $11,000 loan for a six-month course in local area network development, said he is afraid he has lost his money.

"When I walked to the [locked] door, I was scared to death," he said. "If you spend $11,000, the least you can do is let people know what's going on."

Judy H. Hendrickson of the Maryland Higher Education Commission said the state agency is citing the company for a violation and considering revoking its license. She said the school has not filed for bankruptcy protection and had not contacted the state to advise officials that the company is moving. The agency monitors private career schools.

Hendrickson said the school will be required to refund students' money and that her agency will work with Fannie Mae, which secured several educational loans to the school, and other banks that the school worked with to cancel or discharge loans made to the school.

The commission said the company was licensed to operate in May of last year. The state began monitoring it a year later, after it canceled a program.

"We're strongly considering revoking their approval to operate and issuing an injunction to stop new enrollment," said Hendrickson, director of academic affairs. "We're taking the strongest action against the school."

Hendrickson said the commission feared that the business was not doing well after it closed its office in Charlotte.

Commission workers attempted last month to obtain records of current students but were unable to because no one was there to direct them to the appropriate files and the school director had left or been fired, she said.

At the same time, Assistant Attorney General Maureen Walsh David contacted Douglas D. Davis, Ameritrain's president and chief executive officer, who assured state officials that the school was not closing. The higher education commission got calls from the media yesterday telling them students were complaining that classes were canceled and the doors locked.

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