School For Troubled Youth To Issue Tuition Refunds
Attorney General Spitzer today announced an agreement with the Academy at Ivy Ridge, a boarding school for troubled teens located near Ogdensburg.
Under the agreement, Ivy Ridge will stop issuing unauthorized high school diplomas and will provide tuition refunds to the families of many students who attended the school. In addition, the school will stop falsely advertising that it can legally issue diplomas to graduates and that it is an accredited educational institution.
"The Academy at Ivy Ridge marketed itself to parents who were seeking a solution to their teens behavior problems and who were willing to pay top dollar for the schools programs," Attorney General Spitzer said. "What these parents did not know was that Ivy Ridges educational programs had not been authorized or approved by the State Education Department. This agreement will stop the school from misrepresenting itself and provide appropriate compensation to parents."
Spitzers office began investigating Ivy Ridge last year after receiving complaints on a variety of issues from parents of children who attended the school. In the course of this investigation, it became apparent that the school was grossly misrepresenting its academic credentials on its website and promotional materials.
The school advertised that it awarded high school diplomas to its graduates and, in fact, has awarded 113 diplomas to students since opening in 2001. However, the school has never been authorized to grant diplomas because it is not registered with the New York State Education Department.
In addition, the school, which currently has more than 400 students, claimed that it was accredited by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools, a regional accrediting agency based in Boise, Idaho. In fact, the school was merely being considered for accreditation by the agency and has since been dropped from consideration because of the schools failure to register with the State Education Department.
Although Ivy Ridge primarily markets itself as a facility that can change the attitude and behavior of high school-aged children who have repeatedly been in trouble, the school also trumpets its educational program to distinguish it from other schools that offer behavior modification programs.
Under the terms of the settlement, the 113 graduates of Ivy Ridge who received the unauthorized diplomas will each receive a refund equal to 15 percent of the total tuition paid to the school. Tuition at the school averages $50,000 per year and the typical student is there for 18 months. Approximately 100 other students, or former students, who were close to graduation may be entitled to receive similar refunds. The total amount to be refunded is estimated to be more than $1 million. In addition, the school will pay $250,000 in fines to the state and $2,000 in costs.
The Academy at Ivy Ridge is affiliated with the Worldwide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS), based in La Verkin, Utah. WWASPS operates similar schools in various regions of the United States and overseas. Several schools affiliated with WWASPS have been closed in recent years by authorities in Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Czech Republic, after allegations of physical abuse.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General in-charge of the Watertown Regional Office John T. Sullivan and by Assistant Deputy Attorney General Chris Walsh.