The Colorado Attorney General's office reached a $4.5 million settlement with Westwood College in which more than half will be given to students who were paying up to 18 percent on loans.
Under the settlement, which was filed in Denver District Court Tuesday night, the for-profit college will pay the state $2 million in penalties, restitution and attorneys fees, according to a news release from the Colorado Attorney General's office.
An additional $2.5 million will go directly to students who financed their tuition with the school's financing program, called APEX, for Westwood's failure to follow Colorado's consumer lending laws.
Westwood will also make a series of disclosures to prospective students including:
• The accurate number of students who find employment in their fields of study, including the job titles and employers.
• The full cost of a Westwood degree.
• Westwood will explain to students that credits earned at the college likely will not transfer to other schools.
• The school is prohibited from, among other things, estimating the amount of military service members' government benefits that will cover tuition.
• Westwood will not include a graduate in its employment statistics unless certain criteria are met, such as verifying the employment.
• Admissions representatives will no longer be compensated on the number of enrollments they bring in.
The settlement also states that the school must submit to three years of monitoring by the Attorney General's office. The school's admissions interviews and yearly audits of data used in its graduate employment statistics will be part of that review.
In a news release, Westwood College said that many of the changes listed in the settlement are already in place.
"We are proud of our tradition of helping students reach their education and career goals," the statement says. "Westwood has made enhancements to ensure that students have all the information they need to make educated enrollment decisions."
New students are allowed to take classes for 30 days with no financial obligations. The school is also offering an "Employment Pledge" to help eligible graduates financially if they are unable to find employment after graduation.
An investigation completed by The Denver Post in January 2010, revealed that for-profit schools were using aggressive recruitment tactics and misleading prospective students about costs, whether credits would transfer to other schools and job placement after graduation.
A complaint was filed along with the settlement Tuesday.
According to the complaint, Westwood misrepresented and inflated its job-placement rates by including graduates who were "free-lance" or "self-employed" but worked only worked a few days. They also used graduates whose jobs had little to do with their fields of study.
The school advertisements used a handful of students who graduated from the most popular degree programs.
The school's recruiters gave prospective students misleading information about the average wages graduates were earning, the ability to transfer credits and the full cost of attending the school. Recruiters also told veterans that the GI Bill covered the cost of their studies when it often did not, according to the complaint.
The settlement states that Westwood denied liability for any allegations or claims in the complaint.
Jordan Steffen: 303-954-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org