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Computer Learning Centers Appeals U.S. Education Department Ruling

Computer Learning Centers Appeals U.S. Education Department Ruling...

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2001 -- Computer Learning Centers (CLC), once one of the nation's fastest-growing chains of vocational training schools, is appealing a U.S. Department of Education demand that it refund $187 million in financial aid it and its students have received since 1994.

The Education Department found that CLC violated the Higher Education Act by paying recruiters a commission for each student they signed. CLC claims it was unaware of the rule prohibiting such practices.

CLC and other computer training centers were riding high through most of the 1990s, as workers went after the credentials that would help them in the fast-growing high-tech field. Federal student aid was readily available, further fueling the boom.

But just behind the wave of enrollments was a fast-swelling crest of complaints from students who said the courses were inadequate, outdated, inappropriate and poorly conducted. The Washington Post recently interviewed students at CLC's Laurel, Md., campus. Many said they hadn't been taught what they expected, hadn't gotten hands-on experience and were not able to pass the certification exams they need to qualify for high-paying technical jobs.

One student interviewed by the Post, Stephanie Robinson, said a hardware training course which began in July 2000 had to be restarted four times, once because a teacher left, twice when different substitutes were hired and yet again when a full-time teacher came on board.

Equipment shortages were also a problem, Robinson said. At one point there were 15 students working on 10 computers. In another class, there were 14 students working on five computers.

Robinson said that after finishing four classes to qualify for the "A+" certification, she and the other students declined to take the qualifying exam.

"Nobody took the exam because we couldn't pass it. We didn't know that much," she said.

Computer Learning grew quickly throughout the last decade. It had more than 9,500 students at 25 training centers nationwide in early 2000. Serious problems began in May 1999 when the Maryland Higher Education Commission ordered CLC to pay a $60,000 fine and refund $650,000 to 900 former students at the Laurel campus.

The commission found that CLC had deviated from state standards by admitting students who could not pass entrance exams, did not have high school diplomas and lacked other credentials.

CLC has training centers -- or "campuses," as it calls them -- in California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. Its corporate headquarters are in Manassas, VA.

Artificial Fingernails Raise Health Concerns

FDA is pointing the finger at the latest threat to public health - artificial fingernails. Turns out they carry a risk of everything from fungal infection ...

January 15, 2001 The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is pointing the finger at the latest threat to public health -- artificial fingernails. Turns out they carry a risk of everything from fungal infection to allergies and even burns due to their increased flammability.

Writing in the November issue of Contemporary Pediatrics, Dr. Anne T. Nucci, a pediatrician at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center in New York ticked off a list of complications that commonly result.

They included the expected -- infection, dermatitis, disrupted nail growth -- and the unexpected, such as a teenager who suffered second-degree burns when her acrylic nails melted down and caught fire as she removed a pot from a gas stove.

"I have bigger battles to fight, such as smoking and protection against sexually transmitted diseases," Nucci admitted in a Newsday interview. "But if you're picking your battles, it's worth a mention."

Problems aren't limited to teenagers. Dermatologists say that infection among middle-aged women who use the acrylic nails is extremely common, especially among those who keep the nails on for a long period of time.

The problem sometimes isn't the nails themselves but the glues and glue removers, which often contain toxic substances. Infections can also be caused by manicuring instruments that are not properly sterilized.

The nails represent a particular hazard among doctors, nurses and other health care workers. A study last year found that artificial nails were more likely to harbor fungi and bacteria that could be transmitted to patients.

Here are some tips from the FDA:

  • Have one nail done first. Wait a few days to see if a reaction develops before doing the rest.
  • Never apply an artificial nail if your natural nail or skin is irritated.
  • If an artificial nail separates from the nail beneath it, dip the fingertip into rubbing alcohol before reattaching the artificial nail.
  • Never use household glue to make repairs to yours nails.
  • Don't wear artificial nails for more than three months at a time. Allow one month for your natural nails to "rest."
  • Check out your nail salon. Is it clean, neat and licensed? The license should be prominently posted.
  • Are the nail technicians licensed? Do they sterilize instruments properly (20 minutes immersion in a disinfectant is the minimum). Do they wash their hands between clients?