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Thomas Fortier, salesman for New England School of Investigation:
"Here's quite a story. Take this name down. Heriberto M. of Dorchester. Now he doesn't have the best background by any stretch of the imagination. He barely speaks English. He had everything wrong going for him, but we got him a job with a detective agency."
(Heriberto, however, turned the job down.)
Q. Why didn't you? Were you immature? Are you sorry now?
Q. Are you really sorry? Are you sorry you stopped your education when you did?
A. I think that's established.
Edward Calamese, salesman for ITT Tech's medical assistance course :
"You work as a nurse in the wards. You do all the things a nurse would do at a hospital."
Reporter. I could give shots?
A. Right, sure, yep. This is true. We have rubber arms for that, but you can take blood from each other.
(Medical assistants are prohibited by law from performing such duties at Massachusetts hospitals.)
Vito Augusta, former salesman, Andover Transportation Training Center :
A. No. You got to put the $200 down.
Q. I can't. I don't have enough.
A. First of all, can you give me $100 tonight?
Q. Can I give you $50?
Arlan Greenberg, New England Tractor-Trailer owner, who claimed his sales men are on salary and commission.
Globe. How much is the commission?
A. $100 a student.
Q. How much is the salary?
A. $40 a student...
Globe. You've been caught speeding a number of times. Can you tell me about that?
A. Oh, that's for sure, and I'll get caught a lot more too. . . My man, I travel better than 60,000 miles a year and I musta got caught a million times. In fact, if there's a radar trap I just pull into it. Ha, Ha . . . I haven't got caught this year, knock on wood.
George Zack, salesman for ITT Tech. Boston:
"Now the president of the National Assn. of Trade and Technical Schools (NATTS) is a man named Charles Feistkorn. He also happens to be director of our school, so you can bet your bippy that everything is right down the line (at ITT) ... I'm an honorable man. I'm a man of integrity. You couldn't have more integrity than have your school director be president of NATTS, which is in Washington, D.C."
(Feistkorn has never been president of NATTS. He is one of 13 directors of the association.)
ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE USES BAND-AID APPROACH TO ABUSES
The attorney general's Consumer Protection Division has taken a Band-aid approach to abuses by private vocational schools in Massachusetts when they appear to need radical surgery.
The division is content to get back some money for some fleeced students rather than attack the systemic problems of sales deception and misrepresentation of course quality.
It has taken court action against schools just three times in five years, with two suits filed only after learning of the Globe Spotlight Team investigation of proprietary schools in the state.
In short, the Consumer Protection Division has taken the easy way out while students are routinely being victimized by rapacious salesmen and poor training. Arnold Epstein, a former state representative and political appointee to the consumer division, is the one man in state government most able to take remedial action. Yet he is passive and apparently unaware of rampant abuses in the field.
In fact, he even tried to dissuade a Globe reporter from doing a story on career training schools, claiming that "basically, we've pretty much cleaned up the industry."
His assertion must be taken on blind faith because Atty. Gen. Robert H. Quinn has personally intervened to close the division's complaint files to The Globe. One of the reasons cited was the schools' right of privacy.
Quinn's action-which flies in the fact of a public record law that will go into effect in July and which Quinn emphatically supported-overruled the Consumer Protection Division director, who initially promised full access to the files. Closing of the complaint files means there is no way to monitor the agency's activities and to pinpoint the most troublesome schools.
Earlier, Consumer Division Director Herbert Goodwin told The Globe: "You can see as much as you want. We don't want to hide anything from you. In fact, I think what you're doing is one good way of finding out which schools are screwing their students and which are not."
Goodwin's openness was shortlived.
First Asst. Atty. Gen. Paul Good, miffed at the very thought of outside monitoring of the division's performance, was asked how it could be determined whether the public was being properly protected.
"We'll tell you," he said. "That's how. You don't need the names (of schools and complaining students) to get that. We'll tell you."
Under a law that goes into effect this July, it appears clear that the current view of the Legislature-and one that had the effusive support of Quinn himself-would make most of the records at issue open for public inspection.
In 1973, Quinn, in opposing restrictive amendments to a broadening of public disclosure laws, said, "The Department of the Attorney General is fully in accord with the . . liberalization of access to records maintained by the commonwealth . . .'
Quinn was "hopeful" the new law "would overcome the reluctance of the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), as expressed in the past opinions, to fully effectuate the purposes of public record statutes."
Ironically, Quinn's first assistant relied on past SJC interpretations of the existing public record laws as one of the reasons for banning review of the files. Quinn's penchant for caution and secrecy in some consumer areas rankles the president of the Eastern Massachusetts Better Business Bureau.
Leonard L. Sanders has personally requested Quinn to notify the bureau of any cease-and-desist order filed by his office against schools and other firms "so we can inform the public about deceptive practices of named companies." Quinn has never complied with the request.
"The consumer protection law is the one way the public has to find out what firms are using unfair and deceptive practices, but unless it gets the information it will remain in the dark," Sanders said.
"For some reason-poor performance of the law or just fear of exposing the firms-Quinn doesn't want us informing the public."
While the Consumer Division admittedly may have "bigger fish to fry" than unscrupulous vocational schools, it has given scant attention and manpower to a festering problem.
Epstein is the only investigator who deals with the schools regularly, and he estimates the schools account for less than 10 percent of his time-not even an hour a day.
Epstein, who was appointed to the job because of his unflagging loyalty to Quinn when Quinn was Speaker of the House, was originally hired through an "0-3" temporary employee contract that circumvents Civil Service requirements. He got the job five months after being defeated for re-election from his Brighton district in 1968.
He is now a permanent state employee making $12,740 a year.
Epstein, a registered pharmacist, also owns two drug stores in the Brighton area, which he visits frequently during working hours. He claims he just stops for "five to 10 minutes in the mornings. As a general rule, I don't work at my stores during normal business hours."
One weekday, in midafternoon, The Globe paid him a surprise visit at his Melvin Pharmacy on Commonwealth avenue.
Epstein, who frequently cites lack of manpower in the Consumer Division as a major enforcement problem, was immediately asked if he was taking a day off. "No, no," he said after a short pause. "One of my fellows is out sick and I'm here on a vacation day."
According to a former member of Quinn's staff, Epstein was absent frequently from a job that almost never required him to leave the office. "Arnie's a good guy and means well," the source said, "but if he was there the equivalent of two full days a week, it was definitely an exceptional week. He came in late, left early-when he came in."
During the interview with The Globe at his drug store, Epstein suddenly spotted a photographer taking his picture and ducked down beside his cash register, hiding from view. Still crouching, he said, "You check. I'm down (at the attorney general's office) for a vacation day. You check."
A copy of his work sheet has no notation listed on the date in question-Dec. 10. It does show, however, that Epstein took five weeks of vacation a little more than a year after he went on the permanent payroll.
It was also revealed that two weekdays Epstein admits he spent working in his store were not reported as days off to the Consumer Protection Division. He said they were compensation time for having worked on two unspecified "skeleton force" days at the State House.
Epstein argues that he is doing a "good job" as an investigator and is comfortable with working out settlements with schools on students refunds and doing little more-even though he admits there are other more serious abuses. He said schools prefer to deal with the consumer protection division rather than to go to court in a dispute with a student because "they'd rather pay back some money than get the bad publicity of going into open court."
Epstein has an especially good working relationship with a tractor-trailer school that requires a nonrefundable $200 deposit from students.
"Now I don't want you to go slamming that school," he told The Globe. "It might disrupt the relation I have with it. It might mean I won't be able to get kids back their money."
He was unaware that the nonrefundable contract, signed in the student's home, apparently violates state law and that the school may be committing a crime by using it.
[From the Boston Globe, Mar. 31, 1974]
A STAMP AND SOME MONEY GET ANYONE INTO DREAMERS' SCHOOLS
The advertisements are found in girlie magazines, comic books, matchbooks, veterans' periodicals and "take one" displays at gasoline stations and liquor stores.
A postage stamp, a few lessons and you're out of your drab dead-end job. You're writing situation comedy scripts at $5000 each; and author of children's literature; building your own house; repairing jet engines; and assembling everything from a color television to an ottoman.
Everyone qualifies. All you have to do is "stop dreaming, become a doer, and send in your money."
Later, much later, it comes down to hard work and talent.
Then you are alone again, on your own again, probably in debt and still looking for the "well-paying" job.
If you fail-and most do because the vast majority never finish correspondence courses-the school writes you off as a slacker, a person who obviously didn't want to "better yourself" enough.
How many finish and get jobs? Salesmen guess that it's "just about everybody who wants one," and school officials tell you it's none of your business.
Are the schools selective? As one Massachusetts investigator put it: "If you're warm, they'll take you."
Here's what Globe reporters encountered as students in some of the more-offbeat courses:
HOLLYWOOD SCHOOL OF COMEDY, WRITING, CALIFORNIA
School director Ray Worsley had a solution for a Globe reporter posing as a student who was having trouble with his lessons on how to be funny.
“... OK, I can send you the next lesson if you just send $10. . . Send the 10 bucks, OK? Swell."
Previously, Worsley had reprimanded the student for not being "more serious about the study of comedy."
Reached at the Hollywood School of Comedy Writing, located at his home in Sepulveda, Calif., Worsley elaborated. "Comedy is a serious thing, even though the idea is to make jokes . . . You seemed to be poking fun."
Q. There was a section on satire and I picked the field of correspondence education. Where's your sense of humor?
A. It's funny . . . But why don't you resubmit the jokes in a more serious vein...
The story of Worsley's school should be a chapter in one of its textbooks, which constitute the bulk of the course and sell for a "tuition" of $390.
The real-life script of the school's history goes like this:
The founder, a former stand-up night club comic, borrowed money in 1964 from the owner of a clothing store to help start up the school.
When he didn't pay off the loan after five years, he gave the school to the clothing store owner to cancel the debt.
The founder's ex-wife then became the school's registrar and the clothing store proprietor became the assistant director and owner.
The founder kept the title of director but has nothing to do with the school anymore.
He does, however, remain the star of the school's promotional and enrollment package along with some of his celebrity friends in show business.
The new owner's only comedy-writing experience is composing "funny little ads" for his clothing store.
Unlike other school operators, Worsley made no pretense about being highly selective. "We admit you if you can fill out the application right," he told the reporter.
After setting the course completion rate at 20 percent, he referred questions about job success to Ronald Carver, the founder and author of the textbooks. Carver, who describes himself as "consultant director," would have none of it. He named three graduates now in show business-the same names that appear in the school's brochure-but refused to discuss it further "because I think this thing is going to be one of those exposes."
Asked for a completion rate, he said, "That's a percentage that's really our business . . . You're asking for something that is really part of whether we can continue in business . It's like going to General Motors and asking them about defects or something. I mean, come on."
Carver, who writes television comedy and teaches a course at UCLA, describes his function at Worsley's school as "answering questions about the course . . After 10 years, it runs pretty much by itself. All the questions have been answered."
PEACE OFFICER TRAINING SERVICE, CALIFORNIA
The application tells the story.
The Peace Office Training Service of Oakland promptly accepted as a student a Globe reporter whose physical self-portrait cast him as a virtually blind, dwarfish diabetic, shaped like a bowling ball.
The reporter, double checking to make sure there was no mistake, was told there were no problems.
The only section of the application left blank concerned a question on whether the student had ever been convicted of a crime.
Although all police agencies have rigid physical requirements for acceptance, the reporter was quickly informed of the good news-he had been approved for the $835.77 course geared to appeal to recently discharged servicemen.
"Congratulations," the school wrote, "our qualification department has processed your application and are (sic) forwarding your first set of lessons." Shortly thereafter, a school official, who assumed the title of "VA liaison"
specialist, called about the unanswered question on the application.
Q. There's something on your enrollment card that was not answered. Were you ever convicted of a felony?
A. I didn't answer it because I thought it might disqualify me. I've been convicted of failing to obey a police officer.
The response: "No, that wouldn't matter. Mild resistance is what it sounds like. It looks like you are qualified. Let's see, you've had diabetes since you were young, are you on insulin?.
The first lesson arrived with a "certification of understanding"-a veiled disclaimer that, in effect, meant the school promised nothing and accepted no responsibility for job placement.
What the "VA liaison" had termed the "largest police officer school in the world" came as news to its chairman of the board, Joseph Lindsay, who did not even know how many students were enrolled.
"I couldn't really tell you off hand," Lindsay said. "Maybe you're not talking to the right person. I don't have a hell of a lot of knowledge about specific problems."
CHILDREN'S LITERATURE INSTITUTE, CONNECTICUT
The ad for the Children's Literature Institute of Redding Ridge, Conn., could not have been clearer: its aptitude test is "carefully designed to uncover natural writing ability If we feel you do not have writing talent, we'll tell
you so right on the line." The Globe's entry was vritten to test "the test" and included this answer on how to cook an egg: "Grab the egg with both hands. Put it in a pot of boiling water. Pull it out when it's done. If it's not done put in the oven. Baste occasional if it needs it."
The reporter's test answers, replete with egregious errors of grammar, spelling and common sense, were accepted with high praise by the school's "dean of admissions."
The test required a writing sample and The Globe submitted a nonsensical 210-word essay that had an error in nearly every sentence. The school titled it "Walk in the Woods," and the dean said he was "especially impressed" by the essay.
"In short," the dean wrote, "you are the kind of student we are looking for. You should be proud of your test result. Our standards are high."
The school later admitted the accolades are sent out in a standard form letter, with only five percent being rejected-also by form letter.
The test answers were a deliberate, top-to-bottom mess. They listed Hemingway as the applicant's favorite juvenile author and "Moby Dick" as the favorite adult author. One entire section of the five-part exam was left blank. Another depicted a "typical four-year-old who enjoyed reading French; a sadistic 14year-old girl who liked watching people "scratch and hop around" from flea bites and a seven-year-old boy with the vocabulary of a college student.
In a fill-in-the-blank section, the reporter had "Johnny gazing across the (dusty) waters of the lake . ." while in the background "he could hear his mother (barking) in the kitchen of the (gingerbread) house."
The $300 course promised that after scrupulous screening the student who completes his lessons "will have a finished manuscript ready to send to a publisher."
Dean Robert Schneider was asked to personally review the test for a student surprised that he showed such promise. Schneider hedged a little, terming the ludicrous essay "a bit naive," but remained unshakable in his assessment that the prospect had talent and could "absolutely" become a published author.
Nearly everything the dean said was contradicted by the school's president, Douglas Chouteau, a former publishing house sales manager who has never written a child's book, or any other. "I'm rather illiterate when it comes to writing," he told The Globe.
He admitted using deceptive advertising; was unaware the school violates regulations of an accrediting body it belongs to; and conceded the aptitude test is virtually worthless, even though it is the chief screening device for measuring student potential.
While the dean found the essay "naive," the teacher tentatively assigned to the Globe student, Mrs. Elizabeth Lansing, was horrified that it was approved: "I thank God I never saw that before. Jesus . . . I would have thought it was written by a child of ten."
Despite the school's hyped-up ads about turning out "qualified writers with a future," Mrs. Lansing, a teacher there since 1972, has found the course fufills a psychological need of its students rather than a practical purpose.