- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

The Maryland Higher Education Commission is trying to assist students who attended the defunct Hyattsville-based Unisoft School of Technology computer-training school, which closed abruptly Feb. 3 and left hundreds of students and teachers deep in debt.
The commission sent what it described as a first wave of letters to students on Monday, apprising them of the steps it had taken on behalf of the 300 adult students who enrolled in the school with the promise that graduates would be placed in good jobs and have their outstanding tuition loans paid in full.
"We plan to contact SLM Financial Corp. [Sallie Mae] and see what we can do," Judy Hendrickson, the commission's director of academic affairs, said Tuesday. "We know that a lot of the students have SLM loans."
Sallie Mae Inc., headquartered in Reston, is the corporate management and marketing subsidiary of SLM Corp.
Ms. Hendrickson said the commission was exploring options, one of which might be to help students transfer to reputable schools so they can complete their training, or offer them other forms of assistance.
"In Unisoft's case, we have a financial guarantee a $200,000 letter of credit," she said. "The secretary [of the commission] has made a claim on the letter of credit. We need to see what the best method would be for students to complete their training or offset their loan obligations. Every school closure is different. We have to find out how many students have been harmed."
The $200,000 financial guarantee required by the commission and underwritten by a financial institution protects and assists students in cases of school closures, Ms. Hendrickson said.
The Unisoft School of Technology, however, never provided the commission with a complete listing of students.
The commission, therefore, does not know the total number of students who were enrolled when the school closed last week. The commission obtained partial lists when officials visited the school, but Ms. Hendrickson said the roster was still incomplete.
"On Monday, we sent letters to students, which included a survey. And, we're asking them to complete it and return it along with critical documents [which include the contracts that students signed]," she said.
The commission decertified the school last week. It is no longer recognized as an official private career-training school and can no longer provide training.
Last month, the commission imposed an $85,000 fine on the school, citing it for violations that included offering students financial inducements to enroll and offering programs the school was not qualified to provide.
George Onyewuchi, the school's owner, did not respond to several messages left by the Washington Times with his brother, Ozuo Onyewuchi.
Bridget Winstead, 28, a former student, said she was gratified to learn the commission is working on behalf of the students.
"I feel as if the Unisoft School of Technology scammed us," Mrs. Winstead said. "Administrators said the classes would be completed in one year, but everyone I know was still taking classes 18 months later."
The wife and mother of four, who lives in Lanham, said she enrolled in the school to try to provide a better quality of life for her family. Instead, she got stuck with a $13,147 debt.
"Sallie Mae is already requesting payments," she said. "I'm paying $143 a month for an education I didn't receive."
Ms. Hendrickson suggested that students visit the commission's Web site at www.mhec.state.md.us, and under the heading "Career and Workforce Education" click "Private Career Schools" for more information about Unisoft School of Technology.

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