Department of Education monitors Phoenix nursing program, former student files lawsuit

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University of Aspen Phoenix Program remains under the microscope of the state board of nursing because the private, for-profit school has been on probation for several months.

Now a former student is filing a complaint.

FOX 10 Investigates has reported in depth on major education issues with the online learning program still not meeting state standards.

A source familiar with the matter says they’ve never seen a situation like this, and a spokesperson for the US Department of Education says they’re monitoring oversight measures taken by the Science Council Arizona State nurses tied to the University of Aspen and what might impact its federal undergraduate. eligibility for aid.

RELATED: University of Aspen investigation: For-profit nursing school placed on probation by Arizona State Board of Nursing

‘… a lot of emotions’

Kristen Stewart worked as a veterinary nurse for 20 years, but at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to switch to human medicine and applied to the University of Aspen’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

“The advantages of Aspen were that there was a night and weekend program. I am a single mother and I work full time. It’s really important because it works for my schedule. The other benefit was the cost,” she said.

Stewart completed her prerequisites and was scheduled to start basic nursing classes on February 15 this year, but that never happened for incoming students at the two Phoenix campuses.

“There were a lot of emotions. Obviously upset. A little bit of anger,” Stewart said.

The Arizona Board of Nursing had already launched an investigation into the University of Aspen at that time.

Investigators reported that Aspen failed to properly train new faculty members and relied on “grossly inadequate testing practices,” in addition to a lack of direct care clinical hours for undergraduate students. preparing to become the next generation of Arizona nurses.

First-time pass rate is lower than Arizona law

The University of Aspen’s glaring first-time pass rate in 2021 of 58% on the NCLEX, the national exam needed to become a nurse, was well below the 80% mark required by US law. Arizona.

Admissions to the nursing program ceased when the board issued a charge notice.

“It was very, very daunting to learn…about a week before classes started, so we weren’t moving forward,” Stewart said.

In April, Stewart filed a class action lawsuit against Aspen Group, Inc., accusing it of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act and unjust enrichment.

The lawsuit says Aspen made false promises and misrepresentations of its curriculum and hid shortcomings from students, like Stewart.

Prior to the three-year probationary period, there were approximately 700 students who had taken pre-recreational courses, were still taking them, or had just enrolled.

Stewart eventually enrolled at another school, but says not all of her credits from Aspen transferred with her.

“So I had to retake some classes and you know, put in extra time to redo things that you know, I’ve already done,” Stewart said.

Meanwhile, her federal financial aid has run out because she spent about $15,000 on tuition loans in Aspen.

“Essentially my senior year, I’ll be short on funding,” she explained.

Stewart is suing Aspen on behalf of others in similar situations, Arizonans who enrolled in the pre-nursing program and paid the tuition.

The exact size of the class remains to be determined.

Aspen’s consent agreement with the Board of Nursing indicates that the program must achieve an 80% average on the NCLEX in 2022, but so far that is not the case.

“To date, the success rate since the beginning of the year is 69.4%. Ninety-three of 134 students passed,” said Dr. David Hrabe, education program administrator for the Arizona State Board of Nursing, at a conference in July. 29 meeting of the board of directors.

He investigates the University of Aspen and describes a grim situation for the program.

“In order for Aspen to reach 80% by the end of 2022, which is consistent with their consent agreement, students would now have to test at 88% pass rate for the first time. adjusted numbers, it’s now 89%,” Hrabe said.

Figures updated in August show Aspen’s first pass rate has fallen to 67% since the first quarter of the year.

An uncertain future

If the program fails to meet the grade, admissions could be suspended indefinitely and the board may begin the process of Aspen fulfilling its obligations to existing students within up to two years.

Hrabe also raised new allegations that Aspen has been accepting applications from out-of-state students.

“… contract seen from a student in Georgia. We are seeking information on this particular situation,” Hrabe said.

University of Aspen attorney Geoffrey Sturr responded, “Aspen will and will continue to cooperate and provide information in response to the RQ that has been received, and the facts are highly disputed, and we simply ask Council to keep an open mind until it receives a full investigation report.”

Stewart says she’s not giving up on her dream of being a nurse.

When asked if she felt betrayed by college, she replied, “Yeah…I wouldn’t be in this situation if it had been done right.”

Aspen is accredited by the Distance Education Accreditation Commission (DEAC). The commission says it is also aware of the problems with the program and is working with the Arizona Board of Nursing and the Board of Private Postsecondary Education to monitor the situation.

The commission released a statement saying, “DEAC is aware of the issues regarding the BSN pre-nursing program and has been working with the Arizona Department of Private Post-Secondary Schools and the Arizona Council of Nursing to monitor the situation. and ensure that the interests of students continue to be the priority.

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