OAKLAND — In a new state bureau’s first major test, government regulators argued Thursday that a judge should shut down the troubled Institute of Medical Education.
At an administrative hearing that could stretch into September, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Tsukamaki asked for permission to close the for-profit school, which has campuses in Oakland and San Jose. The institute has been closed since February, when regulators with the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education prohibited it from operating pending the hearing.
The institute, with a student body of about 250, deceived students into paying thousands of dollars for nursing, dental-hygiene and other classes that had not been approved, Tsukamaki told administrative law Judge Dianna Albini.
“Essentially, your honor, IME is not financially viable,” he said. “IME was basically coming apart at the seams.”
An attorney for the school, Kimberly Culp, declined to give an opening statement. The school’s operations director, Khoi Lam, said in February that the state gave the institute just three days to answer complicated questions about its finances and academics.
The case is the first test for the state bureau, set up in 2010 to oversee for-profit and vocational schools. At least 20 students from several of the school’s programs complained to the bureau about IME, an investigator testified Thursday.
The state has charged institute owners Bindu Baburajan and Sunil
Vethody with violating more than a dozen rules, including misleading students about the school’s accreditation and shutting down the dental-hygiene program without notice.
After the state warned institute leaders about the problems, they made a series of frantic, “whimsical” decisions that left students baffled, Tsukamaki said.
“Students put their trust and their money — a lot of money — into the school,” he said. “They lost time — sometimes upward of two years — with no degree or certificate to show for it.”
Matt Krupnick covers higher educator. Contact him at 510-208-6488. Follow him at Twitter.com/mattkrupnick.