- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—GREENSBORO — A local business college that closed suddenly in May is now facing a class-action lawsuit from disgruntled students and graduates.

In the suit, filed last Thursday in Guilford County Superior Court, one student alleges that she couldn’t get her diploma because Brookstone College of Business closed its campus in Greensboro and Charlotte with little warning.

A second student claims that the college’s closing cut him off from job placement services and remedial courses that he says he was promised.

“It created some real hardships for some people trying to better themselves through education,” said Mike Lewis, a Winston-Salem attorney involved in the case. “It’s really a tough deal for these students.”

The college’s two owners, Jack and Marlene Henderson of Charlotte, did not return an email sent to an address on the college’s home page and did not return a voicemail message left on what’s believed to be their home telephone.

Jack Henderson was the president of Commercial College of Asheboro, Brookstone’s parent company. His wife, Marlene Henderson, was the company’s vice president.

Brookstone dates back to 1939, when it was founded as a secretarial and bookkeeping school called Asheboro Business College. In 1984, the school became Brookstone College and moved to Greensboro. It opened a Charlotte campus three years later.

The for-profit college offered 11 diploma and certificate programs that would train people for jobs in medical offices, pharmacies and other businesses.

According to the lawsuit, the college charged about $21,000 to enroll in the medical office administration program. The pharmacy technology program cost about $15,000. The cost of an accounting systems technology diploma was about $12,000.

The college, according to the lawsuit, promised students lifetime help to find jobs. The college also let graduates return to campus to take refresher courses.

On May 13, the college announced that it was closing immediately. In a news release, Henderson blamed the closing on the cost of complying with new federal regulations.

The U.S. Department of Education enacted gainful employment rules last fall to combat reports of fraud and abuse at for-profit colleges across the country. The new regulations required career colleges to make public, among other things, their graduation rates, the salaries of their graduates and how much debt their students accumulated while in school.

The school’s unexpected closing left 119 students in the lurch at Brookstone’s Greensboro campus on Gallimore Dairy Road and 88 students at its campus in Charlotte.

One of the Greensboro students, Amanda Bennett of High Point, had less than a year of coursework to get her medical assisting diploma when the college closed. The lawsuit says Brookstone gave no refunds to Bennett or any other students.

Another student, Ernest Brooks of Asheboro, completed his classes to get his pharmacy technology degree shortly before the college closed. But, the lawsuit says, he can no longer get the job placement help he expected.

The suit seeks unspecified damages from the college’s owners for alleged fraud, negligence and deceptive trade practices.

Lewis is one of three attorneys working for the plaintiffs. The other two are Dean Googasian and Thomas Howlett of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Googasian and Howlett represented 30,000 people in a class-action suit against an unaccredited diploma mill that used a Texas post office box to sell worthless online degrees for $250 each. According to reports, the two Michigan attorneys won a $22.7 million judgment in 2012 against the Pakistani operators of Belford High School and Belford University.

Contact John Newsom at (336) 373-7312 and follow @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter.

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(c)2015 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.)

Visit the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.) at www.news-record.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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