College gave KC-area students ‘worthless’ course credits, ‘crippling debt,’ suit says

Two former students of National American University are suing the for-profit school, claiming they were tricked into borrowing thousands of dollars in student loans with false promises about the quality of the education and job prospects they would have when they graduated.

In their lawsuit, Shayanne Bowman of Lee’s Summit and Jackquelynn Mortenson of Blue Springs say they were victims of fraud orchestrated by the school to collect thousands of federal student loan dollars. The women said that as a result of school employees’ lies, they both ended up with “worthless” college credits and “crippling debt.”

News of the lawsuit comes on the heels of the school closing its campuses — its two Kansas City area locations closed last month — as it focuses on online education.

“NAU purposely entices prospective students to enroll and apply for student loans they cannot pay back through a systematic, deceptive marketing scheme,” the lawsuit says. “It conducts this scheme in large part through its publications, advertisements, recruiting materials and ... ‘recruiters’ and enrollment ‘advisors.’”

The suit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, names Dlorah Inc., doing business as National American University, as well as two workers from the school’s admissions and recruitment departments, a financial aid worker and “John Does and Jane Does” who “participated in the fraud, concealment and conspiracies.”

The women’s attorneys — Humphrey, Farrington & McClain — in 2017 had won a $3 million settlement for 264 former students of the now defunct Wright Career College, an Overland Park proprietary school.

In the NAU suit, the women claim the school listed the cost of courses and later found out the cost was much higher. They said they were told that education credits earned at NAU could be applied toward a degree program at another school. The women later learned that those credits were not accepted at schools NAU employees had said would take them, including Metropolitan Community College at Penn Valley and Park University.

The women also said they were falsely told that area employers hired more graduates from NAU than other schools.

Their lawsuit calls NAU’s actions “outrageous” and its motives “evil” and recklessly indifferent. It asks that the women be awarded “an amount sufficient to punish” the school.

The suit was originally filed in Jackson County in fall 2017, was moved to federal court at the urging of the school’s attorneys and, after the women’s attorneys objected, recently returned to Jackson County.

This is the second suit pending against NAU. A former administrator filed a federal lawsuit in South Dakota in April 2017. That suit claims the school “forced students to take out student loans for credit hours they did not need as they were waiting for the school to find them internships,” according to a statement from Humphrey, Farrington & McClain.

National American University opened its doors in 1941 in Rapid City, South Dakota, as the National School of Business. The school has gone through several name changes over the years.

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Mará has written on all things education for The Star for 20 years, including issues of school safety, teen suicide, universal pre-K programs, college costs, campus protests and university branding.