Brown-Mackie College

A state nursing board investigation found Brown Mackie College’s nursing program inadequate and ordered remediation. It is set to find out in December whether further action will be taken.

Former nursing students at Brown Mackie College in Tucson are suing the for-profit chain claiming the shoddy training they received has left them unable to work as nurses.

The 11 plaintiffs expected to graduate last year until a state nursing board investigation found some of the school’s faculty weren’t qualified and were using veterinary supplies to teach students how to care for human patients.

The nursing board barred the students from taking the licensing exam for practical nurses and, in a first, ordered Brown Mackie to retrain them at the company’s expense.

The lawsuit claims the retraining also was deficient and that the students still can’t take the licensing exam.

“The students have nothing at all to show for nearly two years of effort and sacrifice, and must start all over again or abandon their hopes of becoming nurses,” says the civil complaint filed May 19 in Pima County Superior Court.

Many were so “devastated” they were referred to a suicide hotline, the complaint says.

The nursing students paid tuition of about $30,000 each for the training that later was deemed deficient, it says.

Defendants named in the case include several former nursing program administrators and Brown Mackie’s parent firm, Pittsburgh-based Education Management Corp. The Tucson location is at 4585 E. Speedway.

Bob Greenlee, a spokesman for Education Management, declined comment saying the firm doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The legal complaint contains some new allegations against Brown Mackie:

  • That an admissions test for prospective nursing students “was a sham” because all who applied were admitted regardless of whether they passed it.
  • That administrators routinely faked certification documents intended to show that students had successfully conducted live demonstrations of their nursing skills in front of program officials.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress and for lost wages and earning potential.

The state nursing board placed Brown Mackie’s nursing program on two years’ probation last year and the school agreed to stop registering new nursing students.

It isn’t clear if Brown Mackie has faced any consequences with its accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, over the nursing program’s problems.

Anthony Bieda, the council executive in charge of answering media queries, did not respond Wednesday to a voicemail and two emails seeking comment.

The Tucson lawsuit is one of a number launched by former students, investors and by state and federal regulators.

Last year for example, Education Management reached a settlement with Arizona’s attorney general to forgive about $2.7 million in corporate student loans for 2,000 state residents who enrolled between 2006 and 2014.

Education Management also operates the Art Institute of Tucson on East Grant Road, which is scheduled to close as soon as remaining students finish their studies.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@tucson.com or 573-4138.