By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
The earliest coverage of the Decker scandal appeared in the Louisville Courier- Journal,where reporter Mark Pitsch recounted how, after Franklin's driving schools ran into trouble in 2002, its owners decided to buy Decker, an existing business college in Louisville eligible to receive federal Title IV loans. Remarkably, despite the problems at the truck driving schools, Weld and his investment firm jumped in again, buying a 19 percent share in the new venture.
The school's pitch was to add construction skills to its curriculumand do all but nine weeks of the training via online courses. As Decker's first CEO, the owners hired Daniel Bennet, a leader in developing non-union construction training programs, an industry that the AFL-CIO has long accused of pushing profits over safety needs. Indeed, when Decker filed its application to open a branch in Georgia, it submitted a business plan to state officials that claimed that a local contractors' association could open a Decker branch and, with as few as 240 graduates a year, earn a $300,000 annual profit.
But according to a lawsuit filed in February by two graduates of the Georgia center, there wasn't much learning going on. Edward Meadows and Andre Copeland said that they quit their regular jobs to be trained as heating and ventilation installers. But the men said that the curriculum changed repeatedly with seven different unqualified instructors in their one-year course. They said they only graduated because they were fed answers to tests. Neither man was later able to find a job. (Decker responded that the men knew what they were getting when they signed up.)
Somehow, none of these problems registered with Weld. In a June 2005 newsletter to Decker students, the CEO said the school beat any of his past gigs, including governor, prosecutor, or novelist (he's written three): "I don't know that I've ever had a position where I had so clearly the feeling that my day-to-day actions are likely to create history for a whole group of people, and a favorable history at that. Decker College is an amazing company . . . I can assure you that we will be making not only business history, but academic history as well."