Stratford Career College Settles Charges It Deceived Students Over Diploma Program

Image courtesy of (Sapurah Lashari)

Obtaining a high school diploma can be a gateway for a consumers’ future, whether it be moving on to a college or university or scoring a job. But, as thousand of students of Stratford Career Institute found, a diploma is only good if it’s recognized. To that end, the correspondence school has agreed to a suspended $6.5 million settlement resolving federal regulator’s allegations that it misled students about its high school diploma course. 

The Federal Trade Commission announced Friday that Stratford Career Institute agreed to pay $250,000 of a $6.5 million settlement to put an end to charges it deceived consumers about its education programs.

According to the FTC, which brought the complaint [PDF] against Stratford in Feb. 2016, from May 2010 to April 2014 the company allegedly misled consumers about its high school diploma program that failed to meet basic requirements set by most states.

The original complaint claims that the school purchased online advertising tied to search terms like “official high school diploma,” “real high school diploma online,” and “legal high school diploma,” among others in order to induce students into paying the $989 for the course.

The course required students to only obtain 18 credits for completion. However, many states require substantially more, including credits in courses not offered by Stratford.

As a result, once a student graduated, regulators claimed, Stratford’s own records showed that when they tried to use the company’s diplomas, they were often told by prospective employers and college admissions officers that the program was not equivalent to a traditional high school diploma.

The FTC’s settlement [PDF] imposes a suspended judgment of $6.5 million once the school pays $250,000. The full judgement will become due if Stratford is found to have misrepresented its financial conditions.

Additionally, the company is required to notify current students of their right to cancel enrollment in the high school diploma program, and to stop efforts to collect money from those who cancel.

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