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Student Defense Sues La’James International College for Lying to Students and Withholding Financial Aid Funds

Illegal Delays in Payments Put Vulnerable Students in Financial Distress 

DES MOINES – Student Defense and Wandro & Associates, P.C., on behalf of a class of current and former students, today sued an Iowa-based chain of beauty schools, La’James International College. The lawsuit filed in Polk County District Court accuses La’James of violating the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act by illegally withholding financial aid funds for living expenses, breaking the commitment it made to them when they enrolled. Students count on this money to pay for household expenses while they go to school. The delays in payments subject students to great financial stress, forcing them to borrow money from other sources and leaving them unable to afford basic needs such as transportation and housing. Some students have nearly been evicted.

“La’James lured students with the promise that they could attend school full-time in pursuit of a better career, without worrying about their household bills,” said Student Defense Senior Counsel Alice Yao. “Then it turned around and withheld students’ money, subjecting them to financial hardship. It’s doing that to this day. We are exposing the school’s illegal practices and demanding that students receive the money they’re relying on.”

“For too long, La'James International College has taken advantage of its students through deceptive practices which has had devastating effects on their students' lives and livelihoods,” said Wandro & Associates Attorney Alison Kanne. “Wandro & Associates, P.C. looks forward to working with the National Student Legal Defense Network in achieving justice for Iowa students who have been the victims of these deceptive consumer practices."

La’James International College, headquartered in Fort Dodge, Iowa, is a chain of beauty and cosmetology schools that has multiple campuses in Iowa.

Students at La’James are eligible for federal financial aid to help pay their cost of attendance, in the form of Pell Grants and student loans. Those funds are disbursed to the school by the U.S. Department of Education. For many students, the funds cover both tuition and an additional sum for living expenses. Many students attending La’James are from low-income backgrounds and have families to support.

The students who filed today’s lawsuit were promised payments from La’James for their living expenses, and received the funds only after months of delay. For example, Jenna Detmer received her payment after an eight-month delay. Because of La’James’s misconduct, she took out more loans, almost lost her car and was nearly evicted. Ashley Barnett received her payment after a nine-month delay. Because of the delay, she had to work part-time while attending La’James full time, and still could not pay her monthly bills. 

The lawsuit seeks full repayment for the affected students, damages for the consequences to students of the long delays in receiving disbursements, and injunctive relief to ensure La’James stops its unlawful practices permanently.

The complaint filed today is available here.

An amended complaint filed on May 13, 2020 is available here.

La’James was the subject of a 2018 investigation by the New York Times and the Hechinger Report, which highlighted how the school left graduates with low-paying jobs and debts they cannot afford to repay.

Tags   Litigation