Finding internship sites for students was difficult because of the school's reputation, says instructor Worth. Another former employee says that when she tried to set up clinical opportunities for students, employers said, "Your school is nothing more than a diploma pusher."
After nearly a year of scrutiny by ABHES, the organization finally granted accreditation to the college in July 2003. But one former college director says ABHES is letting the school off too easy.
"The accreditors are allowing them to meet the minimum requirements," the administrator says. "They get a slap on the wrist and a write-up. They need to be shut down."
Frustrated by her futile job search and living in public housing with a new baby, an exasperated Latisha Tally sent a letter to the Missouri Department of Higher Education a year ago outlining the school's shortcomings.
Latisha was shocked and angry when a response arrived from the state's proprietary-school certification program. "The department has determined that the school acted in accordance with certification standards and school policy, and no further action is required," wrote Leroy Wade, director of the office that oversees proprietary schools.
The department is supposed to verify that for-profit schools in the state meet minimum educational, safety and financial standards. In the last three years, the office received three other complaints about the St. Louis College of Health Careers.
Wade concedes that the allegations raised by Latisha Tally and others could violate state standards. But with a staff of two people to regulate more than 140 for-profit schools around the state, Wade says, the department's ability to investigate complaints is limited.
"We contact the school and ask for their response, then we review and make a determination about whether a standard has been violated," he explains. "The problem is verifying what actually occurred. Even if we don't like what was done, there's nothing more we can do if we see they have not violated the letter of the requirements."
But Wade concedes, "The kind of questions that are coming up point to the need for [an investigation]."
Latisha and Arlisa Tally couldn't agree more. On a recent afternoon, Latisha -- dressed smartly in a brilliant pink shirt and black slacks -- holds her sleeping son after returning home from another job interview. Arlisa styles a friend's hair and watches a Lifetime movie.
Thumbing through student loan papers, they wonder if they will ever find jobs or be able to repay their college debts, which total $15,000 between them.
"We thought we were going to be working somewhere," says Latisha. "Months went by. Then years went by. Now we're in debt, and we still don't have a job."