Computer school's students get refunds

Laurel center, closed in '01, to repay $400,000 in tuition

October 02, 2002|By Gabriel Baird | Gabriel Baird,SUN STAFF

Chris Teves of Odenton paid for classes about computer languages and network security, but ended up learning a lesson about short cuts.

Working hard as a carpenter, he wanted the fastest track to an easier, more lucrative job in information technology.

The Computer Learning Center of Laurel sounded like it fit the bill. He remembers being told he could earn a certificate in 14 months that was equivalent to a two-year college degree.

"They had a good sales pitch," said Teves, now 22.

But it didn't turn out to be all he'd bargained for.

The school closed Jan. 21 last year, at the beginning of his second semester, and he was out the $5,280 he'd paid the center for tuition.

About 120 students who were enrolled at the center when it closed were able to transfer to other schools to complete their training.

Now, after 20 months, refund checks that total more than $400,000 are in the mail to Teves and nearly 200 other former Computer Learning Center students.

The size of the checks ranges from $100 to $13,000.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission collected the money after the settlement of a bond claim against the school.

"This is great news for these students, many of whom had to put their lives on hold until this issue was resolved," said Karen R. Johnson, the state's secretary of higher education.

That is particularly true of those students who were out upward of $10,000 or more, she said.

"That's a lot of money to be out of pocket," she said.

Federal and private lenders can expect to receive an additional $257,000 to repay educational loans for training at the center.

The center's closing stemmed from troubles with the U.S. Department of Education.

"The Department of Education required they have a larger guarantee, and they went under because they couldn't come up with the money," said Walinda P. West, spokeswoman for the commission.

The center was operating in several states, but Johnson was not sure whether students in other states had been compensated. At least part of Teves' refund is already spent.

"As soon as I left the Computer Learning Center, I was all upset about it, and I said to myself I should be going back to school," he said.

The situation hasn't been all bad for Teves. He's getting back all of the money he paid for tuition.

Even better, he doesn't have to surrender what he learned in the center's classes - or from its closing.

"Basically," he said, "I'd stay away from short cuts."

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