NORTH RICHLAND HILLS -- ATI Schools & Colleges will continue to operate in Texas under strict conditions imposed by the Texas Workforce Commission, including the discontinuation of 22 programs at various campuses in which the training school was misreporting graduate employment rates.
Locally, the state is revoking approval for three programs at the North Richland Hills campus: automotive service technician, business administration and yoga teacher training.
Students in those programs must be given revised and accurate graduation and employment data, according to an agreement signed Friday.
The state is also requiring ATI to refund tuition or offer options for students to complete their training in compliance with commission guidelines. The school faces $61,000 in fines, or $1,000 for each instance of misreporting a program's success rate.
"Those programs are revoked," commission spokeswoman Lisa Givens said. The agreement states that the agency "continues to have grave concerns regarding the accuracy of the completer employment data that is used to reflect the quality of education and training received at ATI schools."
The agreement has provisions under which ATI may regain state approval. For example, ATI has agreed to "teach out" or to honor all enrollments for current students in the troubled programs. That means it will work with students to help them graduate and will give them job placement assistance.
"ATI senior leadership has taken this matter very seriously and worked intensely with TWC officials to come to an agreement for the common goal of providing quality education and opportunities for ATI students and graduates," says a news release issued by the school. ATI Enterprises, which owns the schools and colleges, operates 16 training schools in Texas.
The agreement also has provisions that will allow ATI to return to good standing with the state.
ATI must verify 2011 student employment rates through an independent third party and must make management and operational changes that result in accurate reporting to the state. It must also provide a letter of credit sufficient to cover the cost of refunds or completion of training for the students in the 22 affected programs.
But if the state finds in the future that any 2011 employment rates are misreported by more than 5 percent at any ATI program at an individual school, the state will revoke that campus's license.
While there was some confusion Tuesday about what action the state had taken, ATI officials told the Star-Telegram via e-mail that the facilities will remain open and that none closed while the company was working with the commission. ATI students have been receiving lessons and attending classes in the 22 programs.
ATI stated that it expects the conditional approval to be reviewed after Dec. 1 outcome reports and results of third-party verification are submitted to the commission. If reporting and verification are successful, the training school expects to be able to seek re-approval for any programs that will be taught out, as well as new programs.
ATI officials said they have already increased resources to help students get jobs. They have also instituted strict standards in the reporting and verification of employment rates, they said.
Last month, the commission sent ATI a letter of intent to revoke the company's approval to operate in Texas, citing a third-party review which showed that most of ATI's programs in Texas failed in fiscal 2010 to place the required 60 percent of graduates in jobs related to their training.
The commission barred ATI from enrolling new students, ordered that the agency be provided information about students currently enrolled and told the company to start plans to complete the students' current courses of study or find a viable alternative outside ATI.
ATI's programs include air conditioning, heating and refrigeration; automotive and motorcycle service; welding; electronic systems; dental and medical assisting; respiratory therapy; pharmacy technician; clinical lab technician; and computer accounting and computer office specialist.
The state's action stirred confusion and concern among students, some of whom continue to want concrete answers. ATI said in an e-mail that students and staff members have been informed about the agreement.
"We are worried," said Britney Eylar, a medical assisting student taking classes at the North Richland Hills campus. "We don't know what's going on."
Eylar said the school has told them that everything is going to be OK and that there is nothing to worry about. Still, students wonder what the future holds.
"Even if we do graduate we don't know if we will get hired," said Codie Golven, also a medical assisting student. "ATI has a bad reputation already."
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675