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Whistleblower lawsuit spins against Globe University

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A Washington County jury ordered Globe University in Woodbury to pay nearly $400,000 for unjustly firing a former dean after she spoke out about practices at the for-profit school.

MPR reports the school must pay Heidi Weber, 46, former dean of the medical assistant program, approximately $400,000 in damages. She was awarded $205,000 for lost wages, and $190,000 for emotional distress. Her lawyer had asked jurors to award her $36 million.

The Star Tribune reports that Weber sued the school for violating a state whistleblower law after she was fired in 2011 as dean. She had accused the school of using questionable tactics and inaccurate statistics about job salaries and placement rates.

Globe’s lawyer, Matthew Damon, said the school will appeal. He said that Weber was let go based on her performance, which he described as mediocre. He denied that fraud occurred, and that Weber lost her job because she lost the trust of employees and fellow managers.

Weber told the Pioneer Press that she has been unable to find another job in education and is unemployed. She said she hopes the verdict will make it easier to resume her career.

"I don't know what the future holds for me at this point," she said.

Juror Jake Mehsikomer, a student Minnesota State University – Mankato, told MPR after the verdict that testimony about Globe’s statements to students about the transferability of credits to other schools troubled him. Although Globe officials say they tell students it’s up to other colleges to decide how many Globe credits to accept, the company had worked out only a handful of such agreements.

“That was huge for me,” he said.

Another former Globe employee, Jeanne St. Claire, also has sued the school for allegedly firing her after she expressed concern that it was “greatly exaggerating” job placement. That lawsuit is pending.

State Attorney General Lori Swanson has also said she is looking into allegations that several for-profit colleges used miselading tactics.

Globe and its affiliate, Minnesota School of Business, have 11 campuses in Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota. Tthe schools enroll more than 10,000 students in more than three dozen programs and grant certificates, two- and four-year degrees, and some postgraduate degrees, including masters’ and doctorate degrees in business.

A report from Minnesota's Office of Higher Education earlier this summer found that graduates at for-profit schools who borrowed more — $45,100, on average -- than those who graduated from public and private colleges and universities, who borrowed an average of $29,800.

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