- Mark Niesse The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Carolyn Kemp never expected state-of-the-art resources at Malik College. But, for the $5,000 the federal government invested in her tuition, she thought she’d get more than photo-copied textbooks, outdated equipment to train on and best wishes in her job search.
It turns out that the medical trade school, operating out of rented space in a Chamblee shopping center, was struggling so badly that its president allegedly paid bribes to boost its enrollment and tuition income.
Kemp, who completed a four-month course to become a dialysis technician, now believes she and other students were victims of a scheme. While her instructor was top-notch, she says, the school was more interested in collecting federal dollars than offering first-rate training and coveted job placement.
“I don’t want to think it’s a waste,” complained Kemp, who received a certificate but says she was never given help finding a job, “but this piece of paper is all I have to show for it.”
College President Rashid Malik admitted paying $100 per student to a DeKalb County employee who approved their enrollments in the school through a federally funded job training program, according to emails obtained from the county by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the Georgia Open Records Act. The employee, training supervisor Roderick Wyatt, pleaded guilty in July to a federal bribery charge.
Prosecutors haven’t identified Malik or his college in court documents, but they wrote that a college president paid Wyatt about $1,900 for the 19 students he approved to attend a school in 2014 and 2015. Those students brought in $82,000 in federal funding for their tuition.
“I think Dr. Malik just wanted the money,” said Kemp, who lives near Stone Mountain. “They didn’t do what they said they were going to do. I don’t think any of us in the dialysis class got placed” in jobs.
Malik, who has not been charged with a crime, said in an April 26 email to WorkSource DeKalb Director Sheryl Stone that Wyatt extorted bribes from him.
“He approached me for money in return for students. He blackmailed me with the idea no money, no students,” Malik wrote. “He kept on hounding me during the time by phone calls and emails. If I stayed away, he kept on calling or emailing to let me know that I needed to give him his money.”
Soon after Wyatt pleaded guilty, Malik College closed, ending 17 years in business. Wyatt hasn’t been sentenced yet.
Malik, who ran unsuccessfully last year as a Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., said he shut down the college in July because of personal health issues and an inability to enroll students after losing federal funding. That revenue source dried up early this year because the school wasn’t compliant with the Americans for Disabilities Act, with inaccessible classrooms on the second floor, according to the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission. The college later corrected the issue by moving to the first floor of the building.
Malik College apparently had become dependent on DeKalb County’s government to bring in new students.
Many students were able to attend Malik College essentially for free if they enrolled through DeKalb’s workforce program. They were eligible for $5,000 in tuition assistance for their first year of training through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The college set its tuition rate at just under $5,000.
Potential students who are unemployed, underemployed or dislocated are eligible for federal government assistance through training and education schools like Malik College, said Stone, whose WorkSource DeKalb department is funded through the WIOA. The county doesn’t choose schools for students, she said. Students are required to fill out an application and compare schools before deciding where to attend.
“Malik College was one negative, but we pray it won’t put a cloud on this type of program,” Stone said. “I view it as taxpayer dollars going back to work. Through the taxes we pay, we put it back into the community to get people off to work. If people get a job and keep it, hopefully they’ll continue to get raises and be in the work arena.”
The college, authorized by the the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Commission, met government requirements for at least 60 percent of students to complete their courses and earn credentials, Stone said.
Besides Malik College, other training schools in Georgia also attract students by offering federally funded tuition, said Corinna Robinson, executive director for the commission. Malik College met the state’s standards.
“This is the first time we’ve had something like this happen,” Robinson said. “Taking federal funds like this — taking bribes — I haven’t heard of this happening at another school in Georgia.”
Malik College reported enrollments ranging from 69 to 85 students at a time in each of the last three years. Since 2015, 55 of the school’s students arrived through WorkSource DeKalb’s programs, according to county documents. Seven students were still enrolled when the college closed.
One student, Isaiah Falade, said he was satisfied with the training he received at Malik College to become a certified nursing assistant. Falade said the training led to a job taking care of the disabled.
He said he was surprised the school shut down.
“It was a nice school. I can’t believe it,” said Falade, who drove from his home in Stonecrest to the college in Chamblee when he was enrolled in 2015. “The man (Malik) was very nice, and the people there were very helpful.”
Malik said in a statement to the AJC he’s “heartbroken” the school closed. He and his family opened it in 2001.
For now, students who attended Malik College and are seeking externships, certifications or help finding jobs should contact WorkSource DeKalb, Stone said. Prospective students considering enrolling at adult training schools can find out information from the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Commission.
MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.
Never miss a minute of what's happening in DeKalb politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com.