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National American University now facing class-action lawsuit in wake of campus closures

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- New action is being levied against a for-profit college, accused of defrauding hundreds of students.

National American University has been closing its physical campuses around the country, including three here in the metro.

A class-action lawsuit against NAU now includes eight plaintiffs, and more are likely to be added. Students say they trusted the college to provide quality education -- but many were left with no degree and a mountain of loan debt.

Local NAU campuses are empty and up for sale, but students said what the college didn't do is leaving a lasting impact.

"All of that waste and time, lingering on that they did to us, played a major part in me not having my career now, my degree now," Zaimah Muhammad said.

Muhammad attend NAU at three different campuses over six years with the goal of becoming a nurse. But the mother of five said by closing, the for-profit college left her high and dry.

"It was humiliating to me once everything came together. I'm like, wow. National American University was bogus, a hoax," Muhammad said.

She now attends Avila University, but barely half of her credits transferred and she's saddled with over $10,000 in loan debt for a degree she couldn't complete.

"It's like they were trying to get us to get these loans that would be tough on us," she said.

Muhammad is among eight former NAU students in the growing class-action lawsuit.

Attorney Andrew Smith with Humphrey, Farrington & McClain in Independence said he's fielding calls daily from students around the country who feel cheated by NAU.

"Totally hoodwinked. I was like, 'Oh my God. I can't believe this school has done this,'" Muhammad said.

According to court documents, the lawsuit claims the college found an "opportunity to tap into guaranteed payment through federal loans -- while shielding itself from risk," and allegedly used a "systematic, deceptive marketing scheme" which clouded the actual financial aid students would get and the "true cost of attending NAU."

The suit also accuses NAU of fraud, negligence, conspiracy, and violating Missouri's merchandising act, by offering unaccredited programs with credits ultimately "deemed worthless."  Those are actions the lawsuit calls "outrageous" and "evil."

"I want them to realize you don't do people like this. We all have lives, families and what they did to us was very horrible," Muhammad said.

National American University won't comment on pending lawsuits, but has said it remains committed to providing quality education, in an online setting.

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