(KMSP) - More than a thousand of people are no longer eligible to receive restitution from the Minnesota School of Business and Globe University after the Minnesota Court of Appeals determined only the handful who testified in court will be eligible for repayment.
Last year, a Hennepin County District Court judge ordered the schools to pay restitution to students after the schools falsely marketed their criminal justice programs would train students to become a police or probation officer. At the time, the court determined anyone who enrolled in the criminal justice program at a Minnesota campus or any Minnesotan who enrolled in the online program on or after January 1, 2009 would be eligible for restitution. The Attorney's General Office told Fox 9, 1,200 students were eligible to file a claim for restitution of tuition and other school fees and expenses.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled that only the 15 victims who testified in court will receive restitution as the State failed to prove those victims' experiences applied to all who enrolled in the programs.
"Although the state proved the existence of wrongful conduct by the schools, it offered only limited anecdotal testimony by the 15 testifying students," said Judge Lawrence Stauber in the decision. "This only demonstrates the experiences of those specific students. In this case, where student experiences may vary significantly, this lack of evidence is troubling."
The schools had argued in court that there was no evidence of widespread impact because only 15 students from the criminal justice program testified, but the lower court order stated "there can be no question that Defendants’ fraudulent practices caused significant public injury to any students who enrolled in the criminal justice program with the goal of becoming a Minnesota police or probation officer.”
Attorney General Lori Swanson, who took the schools to court, says she wants to see everyone get their money back.
“We are going to petition the Supreme Court on that to try to help make sure that everybody can have a right to their money back both students who testified and all the other witnesses, who were similarly affected, but didn't have the opportunity to testify,” said Swanson.
Attorneys for the schools say there was no evidence that every single student was harmed by the program, they claim Swanson was seeking out a political opportunity.
“There was a way to work with the schools to make sure that any concerns would be remedied and students would be protected and taken care of and she wasn't interested in that,” said Brooke Anthony, an attorney for Minnesota Business School and Globe. “She went forward with the trial and ultimately didn’t have the evidence she needed.”
In 2014, the state claimed the schools misled students by aggressively selling an education in which a lot of the credits don't transfer and inflating job placement rates. In particular, the schools were accused of offering a criminal justice program that Minnesota police department’s don’t accept.
The campuses closed at the end of January 2017 after U.S. Department of Education dropped the schools from the federal student loan program.