The TEFL Institute, a Chicago based company that provides TEFL certification, has acquired a notorious reputation over the years. Most notably, there are still at least twenty former TEFL instructors and staff that have yet to be paid and even reports of past employees being owed anywhere between $3,000 and $4,000.
Despite lawsuits against the company’s owner TiRon Gibbs, articles and blog postings, and a Facebook page devoted to exposing the The TEFL institute, the company somehow manages to continue operating.
However, there is a new movement by a growing group of TEFL Institute students from two different classes that paid for three-month long online courses starting in both December and January. The list of grievances by these 20 + former students is extensive. First, only one student has received a certificate of completion and the rest are wary that they will ever receive anything. On the top of that, the group is outraged after learning that the TEFL Institute lost its accreditation last year. In other words, even if they receive certificates of completion, the certificates will be worthless since the company is not recognized by any accrediting agency. Furthermore, many of these students have also become disgruntled to discover in recent weeks that the company has a long history of fraud and corruption and failure to pay former teachers and staff. Not surprisingly, almost every member of this group wants a tuition refund from the company. Several students have already filed consumer fraud claims with the attorney general of Illinois and reported the company to the Better Business Bureau. It is likely that a lawsuit will ensue if the students are not provided a refund.
The students were brought together by a woman named Nancy Solomon, who has years of work experience and considers herself to be the ‘grandmother’ of the group. Ms. Solomon contacted me recently and her dedication to exposing the TEFL Institute should be admired. She signed up for an online course with a free voucher from a friend in January.However, she immediately became suspicious of the TEFL Institute because of the low quality of the online learning modules and the lack of professionalism exhibited throughout the company. “The online modules for the class were badly outdated and looked like they had just been thrown together. There were some really outrageous grammar and spelling mistakes throughout the course material,” said Solomon. She also became alarmed when she found out that the company was charging different prices to students. “It seems that they are only trying to get the most money out of each student.” Solomon said that after the course ended she tried several times to reach the company by phone and email, but was unsuccessful. “At least one of our fellow students went to the office here in Chicago in person, but there were locks on the door. I am not sure if the place is even operating.” Solomon said that her goal now is to see the TEFL Institute’s owner, TiRon Gibbs, out of business.
Another recent student from a different class, who opted to remain anonymous, revealed to me by email that her course never continued after the teacher simply resigned because of not being paid. “The biggest problem occurred when the instructor quit in week three—I think it was. What followed was a deterioration of communication and many false promises. No one from TEFL Institute ever contacted myself or the other students in my course to tell us we no longer had an instructor or what was to be done about it. It took a couple of weeks of us calling and e-mailing to finally get a hold of TiRon,” said the anonymous student. The same student claims that Gibbs promised to have a new teacher the following Monday, but a new instructor was never provided. The student says that Gibbs then told the class to complete the course, but nobody was able to since Gibbs never finished any of the grading.
Although it is a Chicago based company, the TEFL Institute has and may continue to operate classes throughout the United States and in some parts of Asia, South America and Europe. While TiRon Gibbs is the owner, the current president and CEO of the company is a man named Todd Schweich. Please be on the alert for this company and inform friends, co-workers and associates who are already in the ESL industry or who are considering to complete a TEFL course. It is possible that the company may operate under a different name soon or in the future. All of the evidence suggests that the TEFL Institute is a fraudulent company.