Star Harkin witness’s testimony under fire

Josh Pruyn, a former recruiter for the for-profit online Westwood College, told senators during a pivotal hearing in 2010 about high-pressure sales tactics he said his former employer used to entice potential students to enroll.

“I began to realize that many of the things I accepted and told people on the phone about Westwood were based on falsehoods,” Pruyn said, recounting his path to quitting the company in disillusionment.

The hearing — and Pruyn’s testimony — provided significant political momentum to the push for strict new regulations on the for-profit or “career” colleges, finalized June 2 by the Obama administration. But documents obtained by The Daily Caller raise questions about whether Pruyn’s testimony was itself the source of falsehoods.

In one key episode, Pruyn testified that he was instructed to pressure a student, “Jeffrey,” to remain enrolled, even though the student had just been called to active military duty by the Army Reserves.

Jeffrey was “completely unable” to keep attending Westwood, Pruyn testified, but Pruyn’s boss was “furious” at the news. She “ordered me to call him back,” Pruyn said, and “I spoke to Jeffrey again for more than an hour and reached the same conclusion. My director then had my assistant director call Jeffrey and, not surprisingly, he reached the same conclusion:  Jeffrey was simply unable to go to school with his schedule. But my director still wasn’t satisfied. She called him and tried to pressure him for yet another hour.”

At issue, according to Pruyn’s testimony, was profit. Specifically, students needed to stay enrolled for 14 days for Westwood to obtain access to those students’ federal loan dollars. “Fourteen was the magic number,” Pruyn testified.

But Westwood officials say they have evidence disproving Pruyn’s testimony.

In a Dec. 17, 2010, letter, the school’s lawyer told Sen. Tom Harkin, at whose hearing Pruyn testified, that Westwood uses a system to record its recruiters’ phone calls.

“Westwood College Online uses a system called CosmoCom, which allows for the recording and retrieval of inbound and outbound calls,” Mark Paoletta, a partner at Dickstein Shapiro with ten years of experience running investigations for Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in the letter. “Contrary to Mr. Pruyn’s testimony, there is no evidence that Mr. Pruyn’s supervisors spoke to the student [‘Jeffrey’] after the term began.”

According to Pruyn’s testimony, Jeffrey received four phone calls from three Westwood officials, and possibly a fifth phone call from a fourth person as well.

Westwood’s recordings of the phone calls show differently. The records show Pruyn spoke with Jeffrey for 55 minutes on one occasion, “concerning his request to withdraw,” Paoletta said in the letter, and briefly on the next day when Pruyn called the student back and “asked [Jeffrey] if the director had called him regarding his decision to withdraw and the student responded that she had not.

“When contacted recently, the student remembered Mr. Pruyn asking a lot of questions about his reasons for leaving Westwood, but that the questions did not seem aggressive. He also did not remember speaking with anyone else concerning his decision to withdraw from Westwood.

“The student apparently felt that he was being treated fairly, because he told a Westwood employee during a brief call … prior to speaking with Mr. Pruyn that Westwood would be the first college he considered when he was able to enroll in school again,” Paoletta said in the letter.

In an interview, Pruyn stuck by his testimony, saying he distinctly remembered his boss calling Jeffrey on a work phone, a phone call that should have been recorded in Westwood’s records.

“I remember it very clearly,” Pruyn said, “the only thing that bothered me about it is why the student didn’t remember it. I don’t know why he wouldn’t have remembered.”

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/B6F63QRD25KIPZ5J5I2A3AVYL4 Red

    Iowa should be parkin that Farkin Barkin Harkin.  He and his wife are bottom feeding scum but win reelecion year after year because of the Des Moines moron class.

  • Anonymous

    The real truth is that the SEC should be prosecuting all of them – including Tom Harkin – for insider trading.  Whom among the involved had a short position on publicly traded “for profit” colleges like COCO and CECO and when did they take the short position.


  • Anonymous

    I just paid $ 23.86 for an iPhone and my girlfriend loves her Dell laptop that we got for $ 38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 42 inch LED TV to my boss for $ 665 which only cost me $ 62,81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, GrabPenny.com

  • Anonymous

    And yet one more episode of ” I can tell a bigger lie then you can “, broadcast direct from everyones favorite studio and drama house, the Capitol Building! Got your bon-bons, favorite beverage, and hankies ready? Gonna be another tear jerker from our cast of jerks!

  • Anonymous

    Looks like he’s surrendering.

  • Anonymous

    times magazine  2007 Harkins steak fry in Iowa tells it all. all real conservatives believe
    “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything”

    Libs believe “We stand for nothing and therefore fall for anything”

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  • spike1120

    Another Democratic lying swine that San Fran’s own swamp drainer pelosi missed.

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  • Shall Befree

    Harkin and the Democrats could care less about getting to the truth.  What they aim to do is make federal funding for public or “acceptable” colleges.  Sadly, literally billions of dollars are being wasted in every jpublic junior college because many states tie welfare, unemployment, “aid”, disability and convicted parole and/or probationed individuals’ financial assistance is tied to their attending junior college and enrolling a minimum of credits per semester.  It’s a dirty secret that should be told.  The majority of these people do not want to go to school they just want their “aid” and do the minimum to get it.  Every semester these people cut more classes than they attend and very few actually gain useful education.  I spoke with3 such unwed mothers who wanted other career choices, 1 a hair dresser and another a dental tech and the other wanted to be a medical assistant.  All were told they could only attend the junior college that did not offer voc ed classes.  Our government, our liberal government, is holding people back who want to gain independence by restricting their access to relevant employable education so that the gov. can plow billions into the public education systems and the unions that work there.  In the meantime, the greatest majority of these “students” just want to be elsewhere or home watching Oprah.  It is an absolute crime what Harkin et all is doing to our society for the benefit of unions who help elect him.  Harkin and the Democrats should be investigated for their corruption and waste of tax dollars.