A group of former Kaplan University students has collected more than 6,000 signatures on an online petition demanding that the school shut down its admissions and hire an outside party to handle student complaints.
Twenty-five former students started the petition following reports that the for-profit university had been billing students for classes they never took to boost enrollment numbers and secure more federal money.
"More and more former Kaplan students are coming forward with horror stories about the bogus classes, surprise fees and deceptive policies they encountered as they struggled to achieve the American dream," reads the petition, which is posted on Change.org.
Kaplan has denied involvement in the scheme — dubbed "guerilla registration" – which is corroborated by dozens of student complaints filed in the Florida Attorney General's Office.
The petition wants the publicly traded Washington Post Co., which owns Kaplan, to enact reforms.
"Change.org generated a significant increase in petition signers by issuing a news release and soliciting signers through a mass email," Washington Post Co. spokesman Ron Iori wrote in an e-mailed statement. "It is unlikely that many of these signers are actually students."
The Web site does not require signers to have any current — or former -— connection to Kaplan.
Kaplan generated 58 percent — or $1.5 billion — of the Washinton Post Co.'s revenues in 2009.
According to the company's 2010 annual report, "The company is more dependent than ever on a single business: Kaplan."
The university enrolls 110,000 students, with about 70,000 attending class online, and has 75 campuses nationwide. The school derived 87 percent of its revenue from federal student aid in 2009. According to Department of Education data released in 2009, only 28 percent of Kaplan students repay their student loans.
Kaplan has recently come under fire by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is suing the university for rejecting job applicants based on credit history, a decision that discriminated by race.
Kaplan also faces an investigation by the Florida attorney general into recruiting practices at for-profit colleges. Kaplan suspended enrollment at two of its campuses after a Government Accountability Office investigation found that recruiters were exaggerating how much applicants could earn from a Kaplan education.