The abrupt shutdown of a criminal justice program at Globe University and its sister, Minnesota School of Business, has left existing students wondering about their future.

The schools, which have been accused of misleading students in the program about their job prospects after graduation, sent an e-mail to students Dec. 30 saying the schools have decided to cease enrollment for the program at their Minnesota campuses. The e-mail says the schools are working to organize a "teach out" of courses for remaining students.

The announcement is the latest development for the schools, which have been under increasing scrutiny since Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed suit accusing them of using high-pressure sales tactics to mislead students about their job prospects after graduation.

The Woodbury-based schools did not respond to several requests for comment on Monday and Tuesday about how many students were affected or whether refunds or other financial compensation would be offered to current students.

The schools have come under fire for their criminal justice program in particular and whether students are clearly informed about accreditation issues that prevent graduates from obtaining Minnesota licenses in law enforcement,

One student on the verge of an associate degree described being saddled with over $20,000 in loans and an unlikely future. The student said school advisers suggested taking additional classes in Wisconsin but that option was inconvenient and still would not result in being licensed in Minnesota.

"They are leaving us with no choices; we're in the dark," said the student, who asked not to be named because of a continuing affiliation with the school.

Accreditation problems

Minnesota's law enforcement licensing board does not recognize Globe and MSB's criminal justice program accreditation, meaning their degrees, which can cost upward of $40,000, are virtually meaningless for jobs at most state law enforcement agencies. Critics have charged that the schools do not make that clear to possible students.

In July, Swanson sued the schools. The suit, which is ongoing, seeks to stop the schools "from engaging in deceptive practices, or making false or misleading statements." It also seeks civil penalties and restitution for students' losses.

The suit also accuses the schools, with campuses across the Midwest, including 12 in Minnesota, of deceiving students about their ability to transfer credits to other colleges or universities.

Globe and the Minnesota School of Business have said they provide opportunities to many Minnesotans who might not otherwise be accepted by a traditional college or university.

The schools said admissions representatives are clear with prospective students and that all students sign an agreement that the law enforcement degree does not fulfill state requirements.

G.I. Bill a key issue

Many of the students affected in Swanson's lawsuit are using the G.I. Bill and other federal military assistance programs to finance their education. The schools rely heavily on military tuition assistance programs. As much as 20 percent of their students have military connections, the schools have said in the past.

The Star Tribune last year documented cases of vets nearly exhausting their G.I. Bill benefits on the schools' criminal justice programs only to discover the schools did not meet the accreditation standards for state licensing.

In October, the Department of Defense placed Globe and the Minnesota School of Business on probation, meaning the schools could no longer accept some federal military educational benefits.

A school on probation is not authorized to sign new students using various federal military tuition assistance programs.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434