Local News

Raleigh Woman Claims State-Funded Rehab Program Comes Up Short

Posted November 15, 2000

— A Durham school gives its clients a chance to work their way off welfare and out of low-paying jobs. One Raleigh woman says her experience there was a ripoff. Student Claims Program is DisorganizedOlufemi Nomusa was looking for work experience when she enrolled in the Center for Employment Training (CET) in August.

"The only thing I learned at CET is how to drag numbers down and across on Excel," Nomusa says. "I could have paid someone $20 to do that."

It cost more than that -- $6,020, which the state paid. CET was supposed to provide a shipping-and-receiving program for Nomusa, who qualifies for help because she has a disability. Nomusa says students are lost.

"There's no structure, no one to monitor them, no one to say, 'Well, you need to do your work. Well, if you're having a problem, call me,'" she says. Undercover Investigation Finds Little Activity in ClassesWRAL went undercover to check Nomusa's claims. On October 11, we accompanied Nomusa into the RTP campus with a hidden camera.

In the self-paced shipping-and-receiving class, there was little activity. The teacher quickly left the room, and we never saw her again during the two hours we were in the school.

Twelve days later, we returned to CET after it had moved to a new facility in Durham. WRAL's photographer again went undercover. In 90 minutes, we noticed few differences from our first visit. State Responds, Offers Tour of FacilityWe took our undercover tapes of CET to the state'sDivision of Vocational Rehabilitation, which directs students to schools.

"Our purpose is to find the highest quality training we can for clients," says Bob Philbeck, the program's director. "It certainly raises some questions that we're going to be looking into and to resolve."

The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation has spent $135,000 on students enrolled at CET since 1998. The school agreed to show us its program.

This time, we witnessed a lively shipping-and-training class and a medical insurance-billing class with present and attentive teachers.

We showed the directors the tapes of our two undercover visits.

CET's regional director says WRAL's undercover camera recorded a school in transition, moving from one building to another.

"I think what you saw was the exception and not the rule at CET," says Tyrone Everette, CET's regional director. "We are usually, on a daily basis, on top of our skill areas, our instructors are."

Everette insists teachers do work with students and guide their progress, but were unable to satisfy Nomusa.

"She deserves to be worked with. But we can't be everything to everybody and we try to be," he says. Nomusa Leaves CET for Wake TechNomusa left CET last month. The program's directors say they will not charge the state for her tuition.

She found some satisfaction taking a GED course atWake Technical Community College, where she says she gets the help she needs.

"My teacher comes around and she sees what I need to work on, and if I need to take a test, give me my tests, and I've seen my accomplishments," she says.

Wake Tech's certified teachers are required to report every student's progress to the state, plus the GED course is free.

While Wake Tech does not offer a shipping course, no course there costs $6,000.

"You could probably come to Wake Tech for four or five years for that amount of money," says Lourdes Shelley, Wake Tech's adult education director. CET Officials Stand Behind Their ProgramStill, CET has 400 North Carolina graduates now working, and the regional director says employers ask him for more.

"I think our numbers show that we have done that over the past six years, and we will continue to do so," Everette says.

Indeed, former CET students say the program helped get their lives back on track. Brenda Winston works as an office assistant at theN.C. Division of Water Quality. She credits CET with getting her off welfare through a course at the school's Raleigh campus.

"CET helped me with my self-esteem and how to deal with people, she says.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges says CET is in good standing, but failed to report the site change, which is required. A spokesman says keeping students on campus during a major move may not have been the wisest decision, but it does not affect CET's accreditation.

Students in the shipping-and-receiving program get photocopied sheets instead of actual text books. The publisher says that CET does not have permission to copy the manual. They consider it copyright infringement. What did you think of this story?Send us feedback.


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