It took four years for students who sued Wright Career College for fraud to get paid.
Payment came this summer in the form of a $3 million settlement disbursed by insurers for the now defunct college.
In the end, 264 students of the former Overland Park-based school got a portion of the money after attorneys’ fees.
The lawsuit was initially filed in 2013 in Jackson County Circuit Court by four former students against Mission Group Kansas Inc., a nonprofit corporation doing business as Wright Career College. A year later it was amended to add 195 students and former students from campuses Wright also had in Wichita, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Okla., and Omaha, Neb.
The suit was eventually moved to federal court.
Then in 2016 Mission Group filed for bankruptcy, a move that left many students in limbo and further delayed the lawsuit.
When word got out the college was being sued and accused of coercing students to take out large federal loans to pay tuition with the guarantee of a career and better life, the law firm Humphrey, Farrington and McClain of Independence was inundated with calls from former students.
“At some point we just had to stop taking in clients,” said Andy Smith, one of the lead attorneys on the case.
A payment agreement was reached by both sides in the lawsuit, “so no one had to admit fault,” said Smith.
All clients involved in the lawsuit have now been paid, Smith said. The $3 million was apportioned among the 264 clients. Not everyone’s claim had the same dollar amount attached.
But for a lot of the clients “it wasn’t even about the money,” Smith said. “People trusted this school. These people were sold a dream, hope. People believed them. They took millions in federal student loan money and provided a vastly substandard education. It was fraud.”
The initial suit contended that Wright “purposefully enticed prospective students to enroll and apply for student loans” they could not pay back “through a systematic, deceptive marketing scheme.”
It also said that Wright deceived students about the true cost of attending, the value of the school’s accreditation, the quality and reputation of its academic programs, and the employment prospects graduates could expect. Students were left with no jobs or low-paying jobs and mounds of student loan debt.