(NY CONSUMER AFFAIRS) November 2, 2018 — Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced a lawsuit against Berkeley College – one of the largest for-profit colleges in New York State with approximately 4,000 students – alleging violations of the NYC Consumer Protection Law and local debt collection rules. DCA’s lawsuit, filed in New York County Supreme Court, alleges numerous violations and wide-ranging consumer harm, and seeks to end Berkeley’s unlawful practices and restore any illegal profits back to consumers. DCA encourages any consumer who believes they may have experienced any wrongdoing by Berkeley to contact the agency by calling 311, or by filing a complaint at nyc.gov/dca.
“For-profit colleges are businesses, and like most businesses, their top priority is generating profits,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “Our investigation into Berkeley College reveals that their recruiters appear to say whatever they think a prospective student wants to hear, especially when it comes to academic programs, employment, transfer credits, and federal student loans – regardless of the truth – to convince them to enroll. These aggressive recruiting tactics are designed to prey on the hopes and dreams of consumers seeking improved career prospects and greater financial security to better care for themselves and their families.”
DCA’s lawsuit – which follows a nearly two-year investigation, including a lengthy battle over subpoenas that DCA issued to Berkeley, was filed after dozens of interviews with current, prospective, and former students; undercover operations; extensive research; and review of thousands of pages of documentation from Berkeley – reveals that Berkeley engages in aggressive recruiting and debt collection tactics. Berkeley lures consumers – many of whom are people of color and first-generation college students with low incomes – to one-on-one sales pitches where they deceive them about potential financial obligations and say misrepresentations about other higher education institutions.