School's president getting new role

The longtime president of embattled Lehigh Valley College is leaving the school where she has spent nearly all of her professional life.

After a quarter-century in various positions at the school, including 15 years as president, Virginia Carpenter is moving to a job at another division of LVC's parent company, Career Education Corp. Her title will be vice president-managing director of the nine- campus Katharine Gibbs School.

"Carpenter has been instrumental in leading [LVC] through many initiatives," Career Education said in a press release. "Her expertise will benefit [Gibbs]."

The job change will take the 47-year-old from one Career Education division with legal problems to another.

Last year, the high-interest loans of LVC students became the subject of a state legislative hearing, an investigation by the state attorney general's Bureau of Consumer Affairs and a class- action lawsuit. The actions stemmed from a two-part series last year in The Morning Call.

The newspaper reported that LVC steered some students toward high- interest loans that left them with overwhelming debt. Some had loans carrying 15.375 percent interest -- a rate normally associated with credit cards, not historically cheap student loans -- and were on track to pay back as much as $100,000.

Enrollment and revenue at Gibbs, meanwhile, have plummeted following a "60 Minutes" report on the division's New York campus. An undercover reporter posing as an applicant was given inaccurate information about graduation rates and puffed-up career expectations, according to the CBS news show. Gibbs is now fending off a class-action lawsuit alleging it misrepresented the facts to applicants.

"I am excited about this new opportunity," Carpenter said in Career Education's press release. "At the same time I am committed to assisting in the search for a new president and working with the college and administration to ensure a smooth transition."

Career Education of Hoffman Estates, Ill., said it is interviewing candidates for Carpenter's replacement. In the interim, Vice President Mary Fronheiser will be acting president.

LVC, formerly known as Allentown Business School, was founded in 1869, with courses ranging from bookkeeping to penmanship and ornamental writing. Since then it has operated under five owners at five locations.

Career Education bought the school in 1995 and moved it from Allentown to a 30-acre campus in Center Valley in 2003. Last year, upon receiving recognition from the Pennsylvania Department of Education as an associate degree-granting institution, the school changed its name.

LVC offers training in a variety of subjects, from massage therapy to computer networking. Tuition for its 11/2 year programs ranges from $30,400 to $37,500. The school put its enrollment at 1,350 students last year; it has declined to give an updated figure.

During Carpenter's tenure, LVC has -- with its new campus and name, and expanded offerings -- dramatically rebranded itself.

After getting her first job out of college, in 1980, as an Allentown Business School admissions representative, she has spent all but one year working for the school.

In 2001, Carpenter briefly transferred from LVC to Gibbs. She took an administrative job at Gibbs, but soon returned to LVC because she didn't want to continue doing the travel it required, a Career Education spokeswoman said.

Then, too, Fronheiser filled in as acting school president.

sam.kennedy@mcall.com
610-820-6517

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