Arbitration Clause Turns Education Dream Into Nightmare

Debbie graduated with a degree from a major university in Cellular Biology/Physiology. She wanted a career caring for people and decided to further her education so that she could become a surgical technician. Lamson College, a local school in Tempe, Ariz. owned by Delta Career Education Corporation, seemed to be a good fit because it claimed it had an accredited program and made many promises about the demand for its students upon graduation. But as Debbie reported, during an informational session, potential students were pressured to apply on the spot and many signed the papers they were handed. Little did Debbie and her fellow students realize that they had signed away their ability to hold Lamson accountable and keep their finances safe.  

According to Debbie, when the school provided teachers with little to no experience, labs equipped with broken and outdated equipment, no externship support and no job placements or employment services, students were outraged. Many took out large loans to pay for programs that they found to be less than promised. However, when they tried to hold Lamson accountable for its broken trust, they were informed they had signed contracts that included a forced arbitration clause. None of the students, including Debbie, were allowed to receive justice in court.

Instead, Debbie was forced into arbitration where her case was decided by an arbitrator rather than a judge. In fact, of the 14 students who tried to receive some measure of justice, 12 failed. Worst yet, the arbitrator ordered the students to pay Delta’s attorneys’ fees after the arbitration concluded. In Debbie’s case alone, the arbitrator ordered Debbie and her co-plaintiffs to pay over $350,000 in attorneys’ fees to the other side, which put many of the already-struggling students into serious financial hardship. Because this took place in forced arbitration instead of court—there’s no way for Debbie to challenge the award in an appeal. This is what happens when corporations like Lamson and Delta are allowed to write and play by their own rules.