The former students of a now-defunct Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Portland, Oregon, could have a big check coming their way. A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of 2,200 students at the for-profit cooking school is on its way to settlement, with Le Cordon Bleu agreeing to pay back 44 percent of its students’ tuition or loan amounts, KGW reports.
The settlement will end a decade-long legal battle against the school and its parent company Career Education Corporation. Students at Le Cordon Bleu and Western Culinary Institute claimed the school advertised itself as highly selective and prestigious, but in reality offered low-quality materials and provided training that only qualified graduates for entry-level, low-paid positions. The lawsuit further alleges that Career Education Corporation encouraged students to take out predatory loans because it had a secret deal with loan company Sallie Mae to overcharge students by 44 percent.
The class action applies to students who were enrolled between March 2006 and March 2010, according to KATU. Former students can see if they qualify to file a claim at a website run by attorney David F. Sugerman. Claim forms are expected to be released in March and people who qualify will then have 90 days to file.
This is not the first time that the Career Education Corporation or its subsidiary Le Cordon Bleu has settled a class-action lawsuit. In 2011, the CEC agreed to pay $40 million to settle a lawsuit against the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco that accused the school of misrepresenting job placement rates and the earning potential of graduates. Another former student of Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, California, was awarded $217,000 in 2013 after filing a lawsuit alleging that the school misrepresented her earning potential as a pastry chef.
Le Cordon Bleu shuttered all 16 of its U.S. culinary schools in 2015, including its Portland branch, citing changes in regulations on career colleges (a reference to the Obama administration’s gainful employment rule that cut federal financial aid to schools where graduates borrowed money at high rates but earned little after graduation).
The value of an expensive culinary arts schools is a matter of debate. Chefs like Daniel Boulud have described culinary school as “indispensable to a young chef who really wants to make a career in that field.” Others such as David Chang have argued that the high costs are not worth it given that most graduate will only earn a blue collar wage.
A 2015 analysis by Eater found that the average tuition at 10 of the country’s most popular culinary arts programs was three times the cost of a standard four-year public university.
• Portland Culinary Students Getting Tuition Money Back After Lawsuit [KGW]
• Ex-Cordon Bleu Portland Students To Get Tuition Money Back in Lawsuit [EPDX]
• Feeling the Heat, Le Cordon Bleu Is Closing Its U.S. Cooking Schools [E]
• Three Charts That Show Why Culinary School Is Not Worth It [E]