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June 01, 2021

Former veterinary technology students sue college

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Nine former veterinary technology students from Black Hawk College in Moline, Illinois, are suing the community college, claiming fraudulent misrepresentation, negligence, breach of contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The students allege that when they were attending the program in 2017, school leadership told them that the veterinary technology program was seeking initial accreditation from the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities—the semi-autonomous accrediting body for veterinary technology programs, which is not directly connected to the governance of the AVMA—and that they would be eligible to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam after graduation. However, days before graduation in May 2019, the students were informed that they would not be able to graduate or take the VTNE because of a lack of accreditation, according to court documents.

Black Hawk College
Black Hawk College in Moline, Illinois (Courtesy of Black Hawk College)

Black Hawk College is listed on the CVTEA website as having initial accreditation as of November 2019, with consideration toward full accreditation in 2024.

Initial accreditation is granted to new programs that have made progress toward meeting the CVTEA’s Standards of Accreditation. Programs with initial accreditation remain in that standing for about five years and can be placed on probationary accreditation if the program does not continue to progress toward meeting all standards. Initial accreditation does allow students who graduate from a recognized program to take the VTNE in most states.

The CVTEA cannot comment on the lawsuit as it relates to private information about a specific program. However, according to emails from public court documents, AVMA staff members contacted Black Hawk College in 2016 and 2018 asking the program to remove language relating to accreditation from its website and online catalog.

According to an email from 2016, the college had posted the statement: “The curriculum for Veterinary Technology is career-oriented and accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.”

AVMA staff members included information about the CVTEA Statement on Integrity in Section II of the AVMA CVTEA Accreditation Policies and Procedures Manual requiring programs to not advertise misleading information and to correct inaccuracies. The college responded that it would remove the language.

In another email exchange from 2018, the CVTEA reached out to Black Hawk again to point out that in promoting the college’s large animal technician certificate, it had stated that students who finish the program would complete the “USDA CVTEA ‘Skills and Tasks’ list” and “Pass the VTNE,” according to the emails.

AVMA staff members told the college in an email that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the CVTEA are two separate entities and don’t have a joint publication related to skills and tasks.

“In addition, it is our understanding that to be eligible for the VTNE, a person needs to be a graduate of an AVMA-accredited veterinary technology program. We are unclear if it is the intent of the program to have graduates of the veterinary technology program take the certificate courses after graduation. Since the program is not yet an AVMA-accredited veterinary technology program, this information will need clarification for students.”

The CVTEA does require veterinary technology programs to inform the public of accreditation decisions. Programs can report the receipt of an initial application of accreditation but must also state that the application for accreditation does not guarantee accreditation.

John Meineke, director of marketing and public relations for Black Hawk College, said the college has filed a motion to dismiss.

“The college does not comment on individual students or information contained within student education records,” Meineke said in a statement to JAVMA. “The College’s Veterinary Technician Program is currently accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. It sought AVMA accreditation consistent with the timelines for such process and students were notified that the program was in the process of seeking accreditation prior to enrollment and while enrolled in the program. The college continues to work toward a resolution of the pending lawsuit.”

See the CVTEA Standards of Accreditation (PDF), including information about accreditation classifications, and a list of accredited programs.