Last spring, the Federal Trade Commission settled its case against St. James School of Medicine, a foreign medical school operating from two Caribbean campuses.
According to the FTC, the school lied to students "about their chances of success--both in passing a medical school standardized test, and in matching with a residency program after graduating."
The FTC accused St. James of falsely representing that its pass rate for an important medical licensing exam was 93 percent when in fact it was only 35 percent. In addition, the agency said that the school falsely claimed that its residency placement rate was similar to other medical schools and that its placement rate was 20 percent lower than advertised.
St. James agreed to pay $1.2 million to more than a thousand students, including $850,000 in refunds to approximately 1,300 students and $350,000 in canceled debt.
Is this a big deal? No. Dividing $850,000 among 1,376 beneficiaries means that each student will get a measly 620 bucks. That's a drop in the bucket compared to the medical school's tuition price.
Are the good folks at St. James sorry about allegedly misrepresenting important facts to its students? I don't think so.
A spokesperson for the school issued a public statement saying:
We have chosen to settle with the FTC over its allegations that disclosures on our website and in Delta’s loan agreements were insufficient. While we strongly disagree with the FTC’s approach to this matter, we did not want a lengthy legal process to distract from our mission of providing a quality medical education at an affordable cost.
Moreover, St. James "stoutly dispute[d]" the FTC's accusation that it misrepresented pass rates on the licensing exam, saying:
Our marketing materials accurately stated a 94% USMLE Step 1 pass rate. This figure represented the 2019 first-time pass rate for SJSM-Anguilla students who cleared the NBME requirement, which is consistent with how other medical schools track and report their USMLE pass rate.
In short, the FTC's dispute is a tempest in a teapot, leaving two important questions unanswered. First, why is the federal government loaning students money to attend foreign medical schools? Doesn't the United States have enough medical schools operating inside the country?
And second, who owns St. James's parent corporation, Human Resources Development Services, Inc?
My guess is that private equity funds own big pieces of St. James School of Medicine and that most people in those funds don't give a damn about medical education.