A proposed class action alleges vocational students promised an “industry-leading” esthetics and cosmetology education at Nurtur’s Aveda Institute Los Angeles received instead “little to no technical instruction,” and found themselves functioning as a de facto “unpaid workforce.”
The 28-page lawsuit claims current and former Aveda Institute Los Angeles students were “deceived” into paying thousands, mostly in the form of tax-backed Title IV funds, to defendants Nurtur, LLC and Nurtur Los Angeles, LLC based on the companies’ false representations of both the quality of their educational programs and job placement rate.
In truth, the defendants have “failed to deliver on even basic statutory requirements,” the case alleges, claiming Nurtur enrolled hundreds of students and secured millions by failing to truthfully disclose material information.
According to the complaint, Nurtur’s Aveda Institute Los Angeles was “little more than a diploma mill” through which students could acquire rubber-stamped certifications to present to California authorities to qualify for the state’s licensing exam after receiving “a worthless education” while performing unpaid work.
“California regulates cosmetology and esthiology programs operating in this state, requiring the completion of minimum clock hours and performance of specific practical operations before students may take the state licensing examination,” the complaint reads. “Nurtur, however, falsely certifies the completion of these requirements to California authorities.”
Per the suit, Aveda Institute Los Angeles students received “little to no technical instruction,” and were required instead to “perform the same basic operations over and over.” Further, much of students’ time was spent on “routine, menial tasks” unrelated to their esthetics and cosmetology education, the lawsuit claims, charging those studying at Aveda Institute functioned as “an unpaid workforce who ran the school” and took care of Nurtur’s paying customers in exchange for no wages.
In California, esthiology students must complete a skin care course consisting of 600 hours of technical and practical instruction, with state regulations specifying exactly how much teaching a student must receive before taking their examination, the suit says. While Nurtur purported that its courses intended to fulfill state requirements, the company “failed to live up to expectations” given students, who paid nearly $28,000 for the defendants’ cosmetology program and more than $16,000 for their esthetician program, “received little to no instruction.”
As the lawsuit tells it, one of the plaintiff’s instructors was “habitually absent” in order to “undergo and recover from breast augmentation surgery.” Moreover, the instructor was “regularly observed arranging online dates during class time,” the plaintiff says, adding that another instructor “had no field experience and could not demonstrate the required operations” due to an arm injury.
Most of the time, students were forced to learn on their own via YouTube videos, while in other situations students simply did nothing in class, the suit claims.
“This forced autodidacticism is not what students paid thousands of dollars for, and it has its limits,” the lawsuit relays. “For example, California requires esthiology students to receive instruction on and perform electrical facials, but Nurtur failed to instruct students on this procedure, as required by statute.”
The defendants’ “substandard instruction” falls on the wrong side of state accreditor requirements that mandate an institution employ a fully qualified and adequately sized instructional staff to fulfill educational objectives, the lawsuit claims.
From there the complaint focuses on Nurtur’s job placement claims, alleging Aveda Institute has run afoul of federal accreditation and funding requirements. While Nurtur has stated in advertising materials that it “consistently exceed[s] [a]ccreditor requirements”—which mandate job placement be at least 60 percent—the company’s own statistics show that “only 38 percent” of students found jobs in their field after graduation, with many of those being part-time roles, according to the lawsuit.
“Nurtur did not provide this required information,” the suit says, stressing that such data is “precisely why the state law requires vocational schools” to inform prospective students as to on-time completion rates and employment statistics.
More specifically, Nurtur has provided “no data whatsoever” on job placements for 2017 or later, including on-time completion rates and gainful employment disclosures required by law for institutions looking to participate in federal financial assistance programs, the plaintiff claims.
Lastly, the plaintiff alleges the “practical operations” performed by Aveda students on members of the public served no educational purpose, and instead benefitted the defendants. As the lawsuit tells it, the work performed by students on the public, which the majority of the time consisted of “repetitive and menial tasks,” amounted to the most instruction they would receive at the school when not left to their own devices in class.
“Nurtur profited from this work,” the case claims. “Not only did Plaintiff and other students pay handsomely to attend Aveda Institute, but Nurtur also received money from customers who received services performed entirely by students.”
Originally filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the lawsuit has been removed to California federal court in the state’s Central District.
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