BRCC at risk of losing trade accreditation over questionable credentials
BATON ROUGE - Baton Rouge Community College could lose its accreditation, depending on the results of an investigation currently underway by out-of-state investigators.
This is a story the Investigative Unit first reported Monday.
The National Center for Construction Education and Research, or NCCER, sent a team of auditors to BRCC after allegations surfaced that credentials for things like pipe fitting and welding were being passed out like hot cakes. The school received a multi-million dollar federal grant two years ago. The goal of the grant was to train students to learn a craft. At least 400 students received credentials, and sources within BRCC say hundreds are in question.
"Obviously this situation is concerning to us," Tim Johnson, NCCER Director for Government Relations. "That's why we sent a team here immediately to begin to look at what took place."
We talked to the President of NCCER via Skype.
"With the attention this circumstance has drawn, our auditor will be in here tomorrow and will sit down and look at those outcomes," Don Whyte, President of NCCER said.
Among those students with questionable credentials is Vincent Lee. He's a blind student who was certified by BRCC to be a pipe fitter. But, nearly a year after getting certified, he still can't find work.
"I'm willing to work, anything my way, I'll do it," Lee said.
Lee's instructor and sources in the program said Lee couldn't complete his work due to his disability, but he still managed to score a credential. Jeff Almond said he first notified program leaders about questionable credentials last year.
"I was told they didn't care if anyone got a job," Almond said. "The only concern they had was getting them through the program and out the door."
Almond is referring to Dr. Girard Melancon who was over the TAACCCT grant and the Director of Craft Initiatives Amanda Stanley. Sources said some program leaders were putting students names into a computer system to pass them, even if they didn't meet the requirements.
"That NCCER curriculum is very strict," Almond said. "It's nationally recognized credentials, they've just cheapened it."
That's the primary concern by NCCER leaders to make sure their credentials aren't being passed out to students who didn't earn them.
That's why BRCC's accreditation could be at stake.
"We will terminate and have terminated unwillful circumstances, but first and foremost we want to help organizations have a quality training program," Whyte said.
WBRZ requested an interview with Dr. Girard Melancon. Again, the school said no. The audit should wrap up next week.