student protection

Stone Academy lawyer says CT misusing restricted funds for audit

A lawyer for Stone Academy is objecting to plans by the Office of Higher Education to use a restricted student protection fund to pay for an audit intended to judge the validity of credits earned by students at the for-profit career training school, which closed mid-February.

Perry Rowthorn, the former deputy attorney general representing the family trust that owns the school that trained students to be licensed practical nurses, said use of the restricted funds is not authorized by state law and is contrary to the interests of the students.

“In addition to being unauthorized, it would be nonsensical and directly contrary to the purposes of the account to use it for an audit that will harm students by disenfranchising them of earned educational credits,” Rowthorn said.

By law, Rowthorn said, the fund’s only purpose is to provide “reimbursement to students in the event of insolvency or cessation of a school’s operation.” The student protection account is funded by quarterly fees paid by the career schools equal to four-tenths of 1% of tuition.

Timothy Larson, the executive director of the Officer of Higher Education, said his agency is using the student protection funds with the approval of the secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, which OPM confirmed. The audit, he said, is necessary for the students to continue their studies.

“Once we have the audit, we can [assess] all of these students appropriately and then get them on a path forward,” Larson said. “So I think we’ll get it done sooner than later. I don’t have a timeline.”

The contract with Clifton Larson Allen, the firm that will conduct the audit, was signed Monday.

One issue is whether students, who divided their time in class and in clinical settings, had adequate clinical hours — something that became difficult

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