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American Law Review
     Established 1890  

March 12, 2001
Columbia Pacific University Closed
California AG Gets Fraud Injunction!
Students refunds in doubt
By Clint Hardy, Capitol Correspondent

     SACRAMENTO -- After a lengthy court battle, the Department of Consumer Affairs received authority to permanently shut down a school that has been operating illegally since June 1997.

Marin County Superior Court Judge Lynee Duryee entered a final judgement against Columbia Pacific University (CPU) on February 21, 2001, the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education (BPPVE) announced.

CPU is a private educational institution offering distance-learning programs from the bachelor's through the doctorate level, and has been operating without State approval since June 25, 1997.

"We hope this order will provide long awaited information and resolution for CPU students. The Bureau will monitor closely CPU's compliance with the court's decision, " said Michael Abbott, Bureau Chief.

The judgment ordered CPU to do the following:

  • Pay $10,000 in penalties to the Bureau

  • Permanently cease operating or offering any educational programs in California

  • Permanently cease issuing any INS Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant student status (INS Form 1-20)

  • Notify all students enrolled from June 25, 1997 to December 1, 2000 of the permanent injunction and of their right to a refund by March 15, 2001

  • Provide the Bureau with the names and addresses of all students to whom the notice was sent by March 20, 2001

  • Provide refunds to all students within 30 days of their request

  • Provide a status report to the Court by June 30, 2001

  • Allow the Bureau to inspect and audit CPU's records anytime prior to June 30, 2001 to determine whether CPU has complied with the Court's orders

Failure to comply with the above order constitutes contempt of court, which is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.

Private postsecondary and vocational schools are regulated by the Bureau, which approves schools to operate in California. The Bureau's predecessor agency, the Council for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education conducted a review and assessment of CPU's degree-granting programs and denied its approval to operate. An administrative law judge upheld the council's denial on June 10, 1997. The Council's denial was upheld by the California Court of Appeals on July 11, 2000. (See the CPU Timeline of Events on the BPPVE Web site.)

Students or former students may contact CPU with their refund requests at 885 Olive Ave., Suite C, Novato, CA 94949. Those who do not receive timely refunds, dispute the amount, or have other issues they are unable to resolve with CPU, should write to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, 400 R Street, Suite 5000, Sacramento, CA 95814 or see the Bureau's Web site for a complaint form.

Five Key Options for Students Faced with a School Closure:

    Students can transfer credits to another school offering similar courses. They should contact other schools about transfer eligibility. For a list of degree-granting schools approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, students can visit the BPPVE Web site at

    Students who are within 90 days of graduation may be able to complete their studies at the closing school or other schools. BPPVE works with the closing school to explore whether this "teach-out" option can be made available.

    Students can request a refund of tuition from the school in writing. BPPVE investigates whether closing schools may have violated state or federal law. If so, students may be eligible for a refund of all or part of tuition and other costs, such as those for books. More information on a particular school's refund policy can be found in its course catalog and/or enrollment agreement.

    If students don't transfer or complete studies and they've received a federally subsidized loan, they may be eligible to have the loan forgiven. Students should contact their lender or the U.S. Department of Education at 1-800-4-FEDAID or obtain more information, including a loan-discharge application, online at California residents who paid their tuition with private loans or cash can request compensation from California's Student Tuition Recovery Fund (STRF).

    As a last resort, California residents who cannot obtain a refund or federal loan discharge can file a Student Tuition Recovery Fund claim with the Bureau. BPPVE will review the application to determine eligibility and the amount of refund that may be available.

Students are encouraged to contact the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, 400 R Street, Suite 5000, Sacramento, CA 95814 or see the Bureau's Web site at for assistance.

The Bureau regulates approximately 3,000 private postsecondary schools. The Bureau is part of the Department of Consumer Affairs. To check on the approval status of a private postsecondary school under the Bureau's jurisdiction, please call the Bureau at (916) 445-3427 or send faxes to (916) 323-6571. You can also download complaint forms at the Bureau's Web site:

[Related Story Links:
Permanent Injunction Against Columbia Pacific University
December 2000 - Update: Columbia Pacific University
December 2000 - Updated Timeline of Events: CPU
May 2000 - Update: Columbia Pacific University Closure Order
Timeline of Events: CPU
January 2000 - Press Release: CPU Ordered to Close Permanently
March 1999 - Press Release: CPU Ordered to Close ]

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