Nearly 300 Iowans are getting tuition refunds from the company that owns Ashford University.
Ashford University denied wrongdoing but agreed in May 2014 to pay $7.25 million to settle claims that recruiters lied to convince prospective students to enroll in online classes. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller alleged Ashford University and its parent company, Bridgepoint Education Inc., violated Iowa’s Consumer Fraud Act by withholding some information, using high-pressure sales tactics, charging huge non-refundable fees and making misleading statements to convince prospective students to enroll in online classes.
Many of the Iowa online students believed they were getting teaching degrees through Ashford's online program, but the program did not qualify them to become licensed teachers in Iowa, according to a July 15, 2015 statement from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. The refunds cover most - but not all - of the tuition paid by those students.
"The average federal student loan amount owed by Ashford online education program students receiving refunds is $27,000, and the highest loan amount is $248,000," Miller said.
"The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners does not recognize Ashford's online College of Education programs as approved teacher preparation programs," Miller's statement said. "Graduation from an Ashford online education program is not sufficient to obtain initial teacher licensure in any state. Among other issues, Ashford's online education programs to not offer student teaching opportunities required for prospective teachers."
"Only Ashford's on-campus program in Clinton (Iowa), which is regionally accredited, offers an approved teacher preparation program," the statement said.
Ashford announced in early July 2015 that the Clinton campus will close, leaving hundreds of students unclear on their options to complete their degrees.