Jurors will not hear ex-Virginia College students’ case

JACKSON — A judge has ruled that 14 former nursing students at for-profit Virginia College in Jackson will not get their lawsuit against the school heard by a jury.

Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill ruled that the grievance falls under an enrollment agreement and must be settled by a third party. Attorneys for the students have said the agreement is invalid because of alleged fraud.

The Clarion-Ledger reported the students said they discovered a day after graduating from a 15-month pilot program in September 2010 that it was not accredited. As a result, they said they were not allowed to take the state nursing license examination.

The students said they each paid about $25,000 for the course — but had nothing to show for it but a piece of paper.

“Virginia College engaged in fraudulent conduct so as to induce my clients to sign a contract and then seek to hide behind a bogus arbitration provision contained in the contract,” said Warren Martin, one of the students’ attorneys. “Plaintiffs will certainly appeal the trial judge’s ruling.”

Don Keith, a spokesman for Virginia College’s corporate office, said the students were fully informed when they signed the agreement. There was no coercion or underhandedness, he said. Keith also said arbitration is an acceptable way of settling legal disputes that saves both sides time and legal costs.

Under the arbitration agreement, students will have hearings in Birmingham, Ala., the headquarters of Education Corp. of America, which operates Virginia College.

Virginia College’s nursing program was granted initial accreditation at the Community College Board meeting on Sept. 16, spokesman Kell Smith said. He said that is the fourth in a five-step process to gain full accreditation, and students who graduate from the nursing program can take the state licensing exam.

Virginia College President Milton Anderson said eight students who just graduated from the nursing program are preparing to take the state exam. About 30 students are currently in the nursing program, he said.

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