A local campus with American Commercial Colleges Inc. is reportedly closing, and ACC officials have pleaded guilty to theft of public money, and aiding and abetting, with the amount of money alleged to have been stolen at nearly $1 million, according to court documents filed last month.
A person answering the phone at the Odessa ACC campus said no one there would comment and directed inquiries to the corporate office in Lubbock.
The Odessa American left messages with the corporate office. The person at the Odessa office, located at 5119 Twin Towers, would not answer whether the Odessa campus is closing. When ACC’s website address is typed in (http://americancommercialcollege.com/), users are redirected to Google.
American Commercial College Inc. has six campuses, including five in Texas: Lubbock, Abilene, Odessa, San Angelo and Wichita Falls. The other campus is in Shreveport.
A story on Campus Explorer’s website stated that ACC in Odessa offers vocational training in the area of administrative assistant, business accounting, data entry tech and medical coding/billing technician.
Texas Workforce Commission stated in a release to the OA that it learned this week from the owner of American Commercial College that the school will close campuses in San Angelo, Odessa and Wichita Falls, effective Friday. The release stated some students may still be able to complete externships and obtain their certificate, but no classes will be held after Friday.
“Just to clarify, TWC is not shutting down the school. The school has informed us of its decision to close,” the release stated.
TWC stated it is “working with school officials at American Commercial College to inform students of their options for completing their program of study, and to provide them with information about obtaining loan forgiveness. Students attending school at the time of closure and students that attended within 90 days of the date of closure may qualify for loan forgiveness.
“While TWC is not involved in administration of any loan process, the agency is coordinating with the U.S. Department of Education to provide information to students about Federal Student Aid addressing options available when a school closes. More information can be found on loan forgiveness from the U.S. Department of Education.”
The release stated that approximately 149 students may be affected by these closures. TWC stated that it is in communication with school officials to ensure proper notification to students.
Students may call the TWC Career School helpline to request more information about the closure at 866-256-6333.
In addition to helping students, TWC stated it is prepared to assist with information about unemployment benefits for American Commercial College employees that may be impacted by the closures.
Court documents state that from 2007 to 2009, ACC failed to meet federal requirements regarding revenues. The documents stated that federal regulations, from the Department of Education, stipulate that an institution such as ACC may not derive more than 90 percent of its revenue from Federal Student Aid Programs (90/10 Rule) in order to remain eligible to participate in those FSA Programs. The remaining 10 percent of total revenue must come from sources other than the FSA Programs.
During 2007-09, the documents state, ACC had “devised a scheme to falsely represent to the ED that it had met the 90/10 Rule, and falsely reported the school’s sources of revenues which were not FSA Program funds to give the appearance of complying with the 90/10 Rule. ACC referred to the sources of revenue which were other than the FSA Program funds as ‘Good Cash.’”
Also during 2007-09, ACC, ACC officials and ACC employees had its students obtain individual private short-term loans from a private bank, “using the proceeds from said loans for ACC to falsely represent to the ED that it was compliance with the 90/10 Rule,” the documents state.
“ACC recorded the short-term private loan funds obtained from the private bank as ‘Good Cash,” designating them as sources of revenue other than FSA Program funds, thus falsely showing that ACC complied with the 90/10 Rule. ACC repaid and intended to repay said loans with FSA Program funds, thereby converting or intending to convert FSA Program funds to repay the short-term loans from a private bank for the use and benefit of ACC,” the documents state.
The documents also state that for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009, ACC “converted or intended to convert FSA Program funds in the approximate amount of $972,794.70.”
The OA reported in 2011 that federal raids that closed down American Commercial College campuses in Lubbock and Abilene that did not affect the Odessa location. American Commercial College operates as a for-profit, career training college and has been in Odessa since 1957, the story said.
The story reported that an April 2011 story in the Abilene Reporter-News claims several complaints were made by students of the college in Abilene, resulting in a lawsuit in Taylor County. Texas Workforce Commission did a subsequent investigation.
The OA story stated a similar lawsuit against the college was filed in January 2011 in Odessa, with the students claiming that credits they earned at the college would not transfer and that the faculty was inexperienced. The suit also claimed that as a result of the poor education and poor career-placement services, students could not find employment in their fields of study.
The suit accused the college of deceptive trade practices, fraud and breach of contract and asked for unspecified damages, the story stated.
But the story stated the suit was settled out of court and dismissed, as evidenced by a June 2011 letter verifying a wire transfer in exchange for dropping any civil lawsuits and complaints with the TWC. The amount was not specified.