Nearly 300 Iowans, who hoped to become teachers, will be getting refunds after taking classes from an online college and later learned their education degree would not allow them to teach school in Iowa.
The students took classes with Ashford Online, a subsidiary of Bridgeport Education of San Diego.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners had not approved Ashford for certification for Iowa teachers. The students who were “deceived,” according to Miller, will be splitting refunds totaling more than $5.2 million.
“The checks range from $1,000 up to $55,000,” Miller said. “All of these folks, but particularly the people getting larger checks, have student debt for (Bridgeport), including federal loans, far beyond the checks we are delivering, but they are substantial checks.” Ashford has a physical campus in Clinton that will be closed down next year.
Miller said around 99-percent of the students taking Ashford courses do so online. Christina LeBlanc of Camanche was shocked to learn she wouldn’t get a teaching certificate after her time at Ashford, but she’s planning to take classes elsewhere in hopes of one day becoming a teacher. “I’m going to keep pushing forward, so it’s an obstacle and I’ll jump over it,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc is getting a $21,000 refund as part of the settlement between Bridgeport-Ashford and the Iowa Attorney General’s office. That will cover less than half of her student loan debt. “I’ve got about $50,000 and I’ve still got so much further to go,” LeBlanc said. LeBlanc said she was drawn to Ashford because she could take classes online, continue to work full-time and take care of her family.