A vendetta against the CEO of a former for-profit college in Louisville may have forced the school’s closure, but a federal court ruling released this week may have opened the door for the college to recoup millions of dollars lost in bankruptcy.
In 2004 the Atlanta-based Council on Occupational Education approved accreditation for three new technical programs—carpentry, electrician and HVAC—at Decker College. The programs included distant, or online, learning in its applications.
But in 2005, federal student aid officer Ralph LoBosco asked the council to rethink its accreditation for the technical school. Many at the time felt LoBosco held a grudge against Decker’s CEO William Weld, who was involved in two lawsuits affecting LoBosco's employment.
Decker and its students were receiving federal Title IV funding up until the council began questioning its accreditation, which ultimately led the U.S. Department of Education to pull its funding.
“This was a school on the forefront for developing programs for distance learning, distance education, computer learning, which was evolving at that time,” said Robert Keats, Decker's trustee and plaintiff in the case.
Now, a Western District of Kentucky bankruptcy judge says the council made erroneous statements and should have reviewed the application more thoroughly.
The council claimed it was unaware Decker’s programs relied heavily on online courses, according to the report. But the court found the council had ample opportunities to challenge Decker’s programs, and the school even references distant learning in its application.
“Its clear from the opinion from the court that the COE had an obligation to perform certain things,” said Keats.
The ruling will likely be used in a case pending before a U.S. Department of Education administrative law judge. Decker could stand to recoup millions of dollars it lost in bankruptcy.
Decker officials would not immediately comment on the case. Council on Occupational Education attorneys did not return calls.
Updated 9:36 am 7/12/12: COE Council Mike McClean left a message with WFPL and referred to lead council Kenneth Ingram.