|I was charged $6490 in tuition and received a Master's Certificate in Renewable Energy (Solar-MCRE) by Unitek College - Boots on the Roof. The Master's Course was comprised of 3 separate courses:Photovoltaic (PV) Electric, Solar Thermal and Wind Power. These courses were provided back-to-back over a 3 week period beginning 9/12/10 and ending 10/01/10. I traveled away from my home & family in Florida to California to take advantage of this opportunity in which I incurred additional expenses (travel, food, lodging) totaling an excess of $2500, for total investment exceeding $9000. |
An Instructor, Kevin Kennedy, was introduced to us during the 4th day of the 1st week's PV Course in which he provided some history of the industry but we were told his main focus would be on system design, sales and marketing. My doubts about Mr. Kennedy's credibility began in his initial explanation of the earth's solstices to the class in his introduction on the topic of irradiance received by the earth from the sun. Mr. Kennedy held up a globe and proclaimed the northern hemisphere receives more or less direct irradiance during the winter and summer due to the earth's axis or tilt changing over the course of a year from 23 degrees one way to 23 degrees the other way! If my memory serves me correctly, I first learned about the earth's tilt remaining a constant in Elementary School and that the Northern Hemisphere being farther away from the sun in the winter and closer during the summer is due to the Earth orbiting the Sun.
The Solar Thermal (ST) Course provided during the 2nd week (9/20 9/25) was absolutely unacceptable for the premium fees charged for this program and what was advertised.Mr. Kennedy was our Instructor for the entire week. Mr. Kennedy began the class with bear with me as this is only the 2nd time I have taught from this Power Point presentation. The presentation was disorganized, filled with misspellings and was illegible most of the time due to incorrect background/text color combinations. Kevin would present excuses stating he did not have time to fix these things, but would make sure they go fixed for the next class he taught. Due to Kevin not being comfortable with the presentation, he would jump around from topic to topic subject matter very confusing.When presenting complex formulas in determining system size, Mr. Kennedy presented variables in which he could not explain or even how to obtain. When backed into a corner by the class with questions he could not answer, Mr. Kennedy would proclaim he would find out for us and let us know, but there was never any follow through. There were many times Mr. Kennedy could not pronounce words or people's names he would reference during the explanation of his Power Point presentation.
The fact that Mr. Kennedy had no knowledge of ST system installation was evident throughout the week. I observed that Mr. Kennedy often relied on the fact that his students did not have any knowledge about these systems and he would get by through providing half-assed answers to questions or make something up on the fly (Mr. Kennedy's extensive sales background) instead of stating he did not know. For example, during a lab exercise, we put together a ST System requiring 2 water pumps to operate. These pumps were managed by a Control Unit which would turn the pumps on and off through monitoring water temperature through wire sensors. As the Control Unit only had 1 power supply for 1 pump, I asked Mr. Kennedy if this was the correct unit to be using. He replied that you could hard-wire power to a 2nd pump through screws where an auxiliary sensor wire would be attached and moved on.
All final examinations were administered through a computer and all answers were multiple choice. The examination for the ST Course was entirely unacceptable as it filled with misspellings and grammatical errors.Prior to the examination, Mr. Kennedy even instructed us to answer multiple questions incorrectly as they had been inputted incorrectly and he had not found the time to make the necessary corrections. Kevin was the only Instructor who allowed us to utilize all of our materials from class (Text, notes, Lab Book etc.)
I was astounded as I scored an 85% on this test by looking up every answer in the text and my 25+ pages of notes taken throughout the week.During the 1st week, I scored a 90% on the PV Exam and the last week I scored a 95% on the Wind Energy Exam not using any of my materials.
Over many days following 09/22/10, I spent significant time out of class meeting with Sanjay Bhuria, Corporate Sales Manager; Shahrooz Roohparvar, Director of Strategic Operations; Chuck Rames, Program Manager and Eli Soto, Director of Strategic Projects about my concerns. I was informed uniformly by all that there had been no complaints in the past, I should have expressed my concerns sooner and a sincere appreciation was expressed for me bringing my concerns forward as they would assure the next class was better for future students. All of the Administrators I spoke with admitted that someone had not done their job and were embarrassed by the product they had sold due to the ST Course. Again, I spent a significant amount of time out of class expressing my concerns which inadvertently took away from my education.
The morning of the 3rd day of the ST Course (09/22/10), before the start of class, I went to the front office of Unitek College and requested to speak with someone in charge of the Boots on the Roof program. I was informed I would probably need to speak with Chuck Rames. The desk worker took my cell phone number and email address and informed I would be contacted shortly. As I did not hear from anyone during the next couple of hours, I emailed my Admissions Advisor, Scott Denney via email and he asked me to come see him. Mr. Denney took me to see Sanjay Bhuria who listened to my concerns and stated he would be in touch shortly.
Mr. Denney contacted me shortly thereafter via email and requested I come to the front office for a meeting. I was met by Mr. Bhuria and Shahrooz Roohparvar. During discussions with Mr. Bhuria and Mr. Roohparvar, I was offered $500 as a consolation for a poor program (ST Course) only if I kept my mouth shut. I felt and expressed that the initial offer of $500 was an insult but accepted it as Mr. Roohparvar presented that was all that could be offered and he would even have fight for it through the college's CFO. Mr. Roohparvar also offered a $2000 (2 G's as Mr. Roohparvarput it) refund if I agreed to leave that day which at that point in the program I would have been walking away with approximately $6000 invested in a single certification in the 1st week's PV Course. I felt it would have been a poor decision on my part to walk at that time given what I was presented.
It was a further insult that during all discussions involving Mr. Bhuria, he would attempt to sway my mindset and thinking by giving me compliments about my business and presentation skills.He presented business opportunities to me about the possibility of opening additional schools in Florida as Unitek was looking to open more Boots on the Roof schools there.I humored him with how I may be qualified to for the opportunity to see how far he would take it. Mr. Bhuria stated he would be in touch, but I never heard anything more from him.
After I had spoken up, it inspired others to come forward as others knew I was out of class complaining given there were many of us angry. The Program Director, Chuck Rames appeared in the classroom the 1st morning of the 3rd week's Wind Energy Course. Approximately Eight us went to speak with Mr. Rames the during lunch break that day. Mr. Rames met with each student individually and gathered concerns about the ST Course. Mr. Rames apologized and admitted that the course was not up to standard. Mr. Rames promised us all that he would be in contact to present some sort of resolution for us before the week's end. This never happened.
This appeared to be a trend, as during the last week and final wind course of the Master's Program, I was pulled out of class by Eli Soto, Director of Strategic Projects about my concerns. During this conversation with Mr. Soto, I declined the initial offer of a $500 refund from Mr. Roohparvar as I felt it was unjust for everyone involved. I proposed at that time that Mr. Soto consider doing what was ethically correct and refund all Master's Course students 1/3 of their tuition given the entire 2nd week (Solar Thermal Course) was so poorly presented. During that conversation, Mr. Soto agreed the course was poor and acknowledged a consistency from what was presented by all of the students that came forward. Mr. Soto admitted Mr. Rames had not done his job in assuring that we got the best product for our money. Mr. Soto apologized for the disrespectful way that Mr. Roohparvar had presented to us and described him as a young inexperienced family member with a Used Car Salesman approach to doing business. Mr. Soto agreed that the suggestion of a $500 refund was an insult according to the compilation of concerns that had been presented about the Solar Thermal Course. Again, I was promised that I would hear something back in regards to action that would be taken and heard nothing from Mr. Soto.
Again, promises were made from Chuck Rames, Program Manager and Eli Soto, Director of Strategic Projects that my concerns were being heard and they would get back to me on what they were going to do about it.I followed up with emails and given no response. It is obvious that the Administration wishes to sweep this situation under the rug in hopes that no one will continue to pursue what is ethically correct.I cannot believe the amount of times I was told thank you for your concernswe will make sure we correct the class for the next group who comes through.How does that help me or affect what I am gaining from a class I paid just as much for as others who come in the future?
It has been suggested by the administration that I rallied a group of students, I vigorously refute this claim. There were 10 or more other Master's Course Students who had similar concerns but some were reluctant to speak up. Three or more students actually withdrew from the program during the end of the 2nd week and went home because of the way the issue was being handled and they considered their time there to be an absolute waste. A student, who traveled all the way from Ecuador, had to be removed from the building by security and then again by the police due to becoming outraged by the way he was spoken to about his concerns. It was the administrations' strategy to keep everyone separate and make their insulting refund offer for the ST Course and remaining class time under the stipulation that they would go quietly and not share with any others. Everyone spoke about their experiences on a daily basis as we all were living at the same hotel together, eating lunch together and sitting in class for 8 hours a day for weeks. We would all speak about our frustrations on Kevin Kennedy's teachings and the way things were being addressed by the administration. Ironically, no one ever discussed refund offer amounts.
I contacted the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as a last resort and received one response from the administration stating they were not obligated to give me any refund as I signed a contract. They accused me of advertising my education from them on my Linked In resume page on the web for personal gain and accused me of rallying a group of students during my time at the College.After no response was received by the BBB from the administration after I did not accept their response, I contacted the Federal Trade Commission by suggestion of the BBB. I have also contacted the Consumer Protection Agency of Florida, The California State Licensing Agency and the California Attorney General before contacting the American Arbitration Association given the clause #9 of the Contract I signed with Boots on the Roof.
This issue has nothing to do with a signed contract. It is simply poor business by Unitek College - Boots on the Roof. Given Unitek College - Boots on the Roof markets themselves worldwide as an accredited institution and are successfully charging a premium for the education they provide, they should not be misleading people who come from all around the world who pay for a premium product.If Unitek College - Boots on the Roof is going to use students as Guinea Pigs in finding out the best ways of teaching in the rapidly growing and exciting industry of Renewable Energy and tweaking their curriculum accordingly, they should be charging accordingly.
I believe what has been overlooked by Unitek College - Boots on the Roof is that they are dealing with many people in a very fragile state given the shift in the economy. People are trying to reinvent themselves through a change in their career or creation of a new business in a new and exciting industry. These people have sought out the best and have chosen to invest significantly in themselves. These people and have looked and are looking to Unitek College - Boots on the Roof to assist them in providing a solid foundation in doing so.
In being advised by a California Attorney, I have no case given it woould be hard to prove what the "standard of education" is for a for profit college providing education in a new field such as renewable energy. Too subjective he said.
I am proposing that my Sallie Mae Student Loan Account be credited a total of $ 2793.33:
$ 2163.33 - 1/3 the tuition they paid for the Master's Course ($6490) as the Solar Thermal segment (or 1/3 of the total course) was entirely unacceptable.
$ 440 - 1/3 of my lodging expenses ($1320). Given the entire 2nd week of the course was an absolute waste of my time.
$ 190 - towards my Sallie Mae Student Loan as I authorized charges of $7810 on my contract and my account balance with Sallie Mae continues to state an initial charge of $8000. I have made numerous attempts to contact my Admission Representative, Scott Denney, in regards to this cost adjustment and have received no response back.
Also, $ (Cost TBD) As a compromise, I would happily return my Master's Certificate, Solar Sun Eye Tool and all materials related to the Solar Thermal Course (Text Book and Certificate of Knowledge) in exchange for the above credit but feel it would only be just if Unitek College - Boots on the Roof paid for the shipping expenses.
This credit and shipping expense should be grated on the basis of good business practices and not giving a customer the product that was marketed and sold. Again, it is not about a contract.
Given the only consumer incentive currently in the Sarasota area for renewable energy systems (minus the 30% Federal Tax Credit) is for a Solar Thermal System, the training I received through the Solar Thermal Course will not further my own business in any way. I am currently incapable of designing and installing any such system for which I have obtained a Certificate of Knowledge for from Boots on the Roof.
Lastly, Unitek College - Boots on the Roof is obligated by their freedom to do business in the United States of America to do what is just and compensate according to their shortcomings or be held responsible by their students, the State of California and/or the Federal Trade Commission.