Ross University of Medicine, a for-profit school run in the Caribbean, certainly has its share of lawsuits. They don’t seem particularly concerned about the legal fees associated with all these suits, though. After all, they make more than enough money off the backs of their students to pay the legal fees without it affecting their bottom line. Considering the school has seats for roughly 200-300 students, yet enrolls up to 600 students per term, we’ll say they’ve got the fees covered. How do all these extra students manage to sit in classrooms? They don’t. Instead, students are forced to access recorded lectures online and often never learn the hands-on skills one would hope their family physician was trained in prior to graduation.
The Attorneys General of Massachusetts and Illinois apparently had some questions about Ross University and many of its practices, and launched investigations against the school and its parent company, DeVry Inc., after complaints the school was committing fraud. Investigations were intended to address claims that the school provides its enrollment counsellors financial compensation based on enrollment, has committed accounting malpractice, and has misused federal and private student financial aid. Federal and state authorities have also launched numerous investigations into the school for similar issues and plenty of former students have launched lawsuits against the company.
Dropout rates at the school are 10 times higher than those of traditional medical schools and only 52% of students manage to graduate from their program on time. When we consider how Ross liked to play around with its financial reporting, can these numbers really be believed? After all, they are self-reported. Should we trust these figures, or is it safe to assume that the dropout rate is higher and the graduation rate even lower and that this data, too, has been fudged to Ross’ advantage?
Unfortunately, even the number of lawsuits against Ross and its parent company don’t portray an accurate picture of disgruntled students. Only those with the financial means necessary to hire a lawyer and launch a suit can manage to take Ross to court. Considering the majority of Ross students are federal financial aid recipients, that’s a whole lot of underprivileged students without a voice. Also not included in lawsuits are students who were manipulated or duped into signing Ross’ Ombudsman’s non-disparagement agreements. Students stating they filed complaints to the school indicated they were forced to deal directly with this person who then tells them they couldn’t continue their program unless the form was signed.
This agreement waives the students’ rights to launch any legal action against Ross or DeVry at any point. Students who refused to sign the waiver, any lawsuits pursued are handled by a specific court in New Jersey, which has never found a case against Ross’ favor. In addition, these students are often booted from their programs.
Those who choose to sign often find their lives becoming increasingly difficult at Ross, often find themselves removed from their program, have their clinical placements altered or removed, and have their clinical hosts suddenly giving them a hard time. As students here are studying to become physicians, they are unable to graduate without completing clinical placements. As the student is already lacking enough clinical placement spots with the hospitals in the US it has as hosts, it’s rather easy for them to simply state they don’t have a placement right now and make students wait. This wait time can come at the heft price of $30,000 in new tuition charges should it go beyond the end of the semester.
While laws in the US protect students against overcrowding and enrolling students beyond legislated seat requirements, the Caribbean lacks the same oversight. This means many enrolled students take most of their lectures online. They never get to work on a cadaver for anatomical and diagnostic purposes, they never touch the diagnostic equipment necessary to work as medical health professionals, they can’t ask questions, and they never examine another human prior to clinical placement. We generally expect that our doctors have at least seen and worked with an actual person and touched the equipment prior to them being responsible for our lives.
One lawsuit against the school claims it has engaged in a scheme that is questionable, deceptive, and fraudulent in order to charge students more who receive Higher Education Act Title IV funding. It also states that the school misrepresents the usefulness and quality of its educational programs, job placement statistics, accreditation, and has misrepresented itself to financial aid. Many students graduating from their programs managed to achieve internships at recognized hospitals. Unfortunately, many of them were dismissed with the claim that the graduate was unprepared to work as an intern and lacked the required skills and knowledge necessary to work in the field of medicine.
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