Four nursing students from HCI College in Florida filed a federal court lawsuit against the school on December 2nd, 2022.
The students claim the school conducted a “malicious scheme” intended to block 95% of the students from graduating and taking the NCLEX. They also claim the school purposefully misrepresented its accreditation status and NCLEX pass rates.
HCI College (formerly known as Health Career Institute) has two locations in Florida: Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The college offers an Associate degree program in Nursing, as well as programs in Medical Assisting, Veterinary Assisting, and Emergency Medical Services.
According to their website, HCI College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Accreditation information for the nursing program is not listed.
The school’s average NCLEX pass rate since its inception is 46.1%.
(photo via HCI College)
HCI Nursing Lawsuit Details
The filing accuses HCI College of committing a series of scams in order to mislead students and ultimately prevent them from graduating and taking the NCLEX.
The suit claims that HCI College misrepresented its accreditation status and lied about its NCLEX pass rates. It also states that the school deliberately attempted to prevent students from graduating and taking the NCLEX by unfairly dropping them from the program or forcing them to pay to retake classes that HCI argued were non-transferrable. The prosecution suspects this was done in order to avoid having the nursing program shut down permanently due to poor student performance. The school is accused of only graduating those students who showed the highest likelihood of passing the NCLEX, thus fraudulently inflating the program’s pass rates.
Other specific details of the suit include,
The school’s clinical relationship with a Cleveland Clinic medical center in Weston, Florida, was terminated by Cleveland Clinic in the summer of 2021 because of HCI’s lack of programmatic accreditation. Once this clinical site was no longer available, students were directed to study hall settings to complete their required clinical hours. Clinical instructors routinely canceled these sessions so that they did not have to drive to campus and sent students instructions to complete their clinical timesheets from home.
Beginning sometime before May of 2021, HCI adopted a new grading policy as a way of weeding out students and forcing them to retake semesters they had already paid for. Under the new policy, students were required to achieve both an 80 percent overall score and at least 50 percent in every category of the high-stakes “predictor” exams in order to advance through the program.
Some students who were forcibly expelled for not passing the new high-stakes testing requirements were told that they were being removed from the student body on the basis of “academic integrity.”
In the fall of 2021, only five students out of a class of over 100 passed the new final exam and were permitted to graduate.
- According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), only 8 students who graduated in December 2021 went on to take the NCLEX-RN in the first quarter of 2022.
Four students have been named as plaintiffs in the case. They are demanding to have their student loans canceled, tuition payments refunded, and reinstatement of their eligibility to take the NCLEX.
History of Unethical Conduct
HCI College has a documented history of unethical conduct. In 2018 and 2019, the college was put on probation by the Florida Board of Nursing for having NCLEX pass rates below state standards for nursing programs. When they failed to obtain accreditation for the ASN program, the nursing program was terminated by the Florida BON on August 7, 2019.
Rather than attempt to improve the nursing program and apply for reinstatement, the school simply created a “new” program and obtained a different state identification number. They used the same curriculum, facilities, and instructors as before, but the “new” program allowed for a clean slate wiped free of the poor pass rates prior graduates had attained.
The college used the guise of the “new” program to mislead students and hide their termination status, lack of accreditation, and the dismal NCLEX pass rates of the “old” program. Creation of a “new” program would theoretically buy the college five more years to meet BON accreditation requirements.
Despite a lack of accreditation and poor NCLEX pass rates, the school continued to charge students approximately $50,000 in tuition and fees to complete the subpar ASN program.
Statements from the HCI Students And Attorneys
Each plaintiff released their own statements.
“The reason I chose HCI was because they said it was made for working adults. What you don’t know going in is that they are setting you up to fail — it’s all sunshine and butterflies until you sign on the dotted line,” said plaintiff Rebecca Freeman. “Other schools are in it for student success. They have tutoring, staffing, and clinicals. HCI does not have student success at heart, they have making money at heart. I made A’s every semester and on predictor tests, then they change the benchmark for the exit exam and you fail. I want to sit for my boards. That is what I’m owed.”
“What hurts me the most is they knew we wouldn’t be okay — they knew they were going to fail us, take our money, that we would never get our license or be able to transfer to another school — and they didn’t care,” said plaintiff Bianca Vinas. “Nursing is already a scary profession to get into during this time. Most of the students represented here are people who chose, during a pandemic, to sacrifice their own wellbeing to help others and they are now being put in a position where not only they can’t do that, they have their livelihood taken away from them.”
“HCI appealed to me and many other single moms because they offered night classes and the ability to finish in a year,” said plaintiff Brittany Roberson. “I wanted to become a travel nurse. I wanted to get my masters and become a nurse practitioner. Instead, this situation has displaced me from my 16 year old daughter, putting me in a position where I couldn’t continue to live in Florida. I want my money back and to be sent to the boards. I’ve already paid and done the work, but I can’t take these credentials to another school and I can’t pay to start over.”
“I enrolled in May 2020 and started to get nervous when there were no clinicals, the teachers were horrible, and you couldn’t get straight answers as they kept changing the rules and policies,” said plaintiff Tiffany King. “It was easy to just blame Covid for everything at that time. But I made it to the end and then the first day of that last semester I found out they changed the program and the new testing requirements made it almost impossible to pass — it felt like someone took a knife and stuck it right in my chest.”
Florida attorney and co-counsel Nicole Mayer also spoke on behalf of the plaintiffs and legal team, stating, “I am fortunate to be working with such an intelligent and devoted team of lawyers in pursuit of justice for our clients and others taken advantage of by the Defendant. For-profit colleges like HCI have exploited Florida’s nursing shortage for their own financial gain at the expense of Floridians seeking to better themselves, their families, and our communities. While owners of these ‘schools’ rake in tens of millions of dollars, their victims are left with tens of thousands in debt and time they’ll never get back. This must stop.”
HCI College has not made an official statement regarding the lawsuit or accusations.