Former Ascension College employee charged with felony theft

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Days after the sudden closure of Ascension College in Gonzales on July 31, a former employee of the school has been arrested and charged with stealing cash tuition payments made by students.

Sgt. Steven Nethken of the Gonzales Police Department said Celeste L. Boudreaux, 38, of 143 Redwood, Labadieville, was arrested at her home by Assumption Parish authorities on Aug. 3.

She was transferred to the custody of the Gonzales Police Department and booked on one count of felony theft over $500, Nethken said.

Police allege that Boudreaux stole an aggregate amount of over $7,600 in cash payments made to her by students attending the college.

Those reports were not reported on the students’ individual financial statements, Nethken said.

On Monday, several students of the school said they identified Boudreaux as the person at the college who accepted payments from them in a police lineup in Gonzales prior to the arrest.

Some students received mailed letters advising them of the closure, but others learned from handwritten notices on school doors when they went to class Monday morning.

The letter from college administrator Fred Kerr dated July 30 said the school was no longer eligible for financial aid and could not appeal the decision due to the legal costs involved.

The letter, in reference the Boudreaux investigation, cited missing cash from student payments, and said local authorities were contacted in the matter.

Nethken said the Gonzales investigation did not pertain to the closure of the college due to its loss of Title IV student loan funding, but the police department investigation is still underway.

He said the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of the Inspector General would be meeting with him in Gonzales next week.

Nethken declined to be specific about the upcoming meeting, but he said prior to Boudreaux’s arrest, the federal agencies had an open investigation pertaining to Ascension College.

Approximately 137 LPN, medical assistant, medical office assistant and dental assistant students attend the college.

Students who met at the school Monday morning expressed concern that they had taken out student loans and made tuition payments, but would not be able to graduate from the college.  Some were scheduled to graduate in the fall, and were afraid their credits might transfer to other schools.

Louisiana’s Board of Regents in a release Wednesday said Ascension College students would have the opportunity to meet with officials from the board Friday.

Also present at the meeting with be the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, licensed area proprietary schools, and Louisiana Community and Technical College System representatives.

Students who have not finished schoolwork at the college will be helped in finding another school to finish their coursework, according to the release.

The meeting is set for 10 a.m. in the Louisiana Purchase Room of the Claiborne building, 1201 North Third St., in Baton Rouge.

Licensed schools expected to be at the meeting include:

• Baton Rouge School of Computers

• Baton Rouge School of Court Reporting

• Camelot College in Baton Rouge

• Compass Career College in Hammond

• Delta College of Arts & Technology in Baton Rouge

• ITI Technical College in Baton Rouge

• Louisiana Dental Assisting School in Zachary

• Medical Training College in Baton Rouge

• MedVance Institute of Baton Rouge

• Remington College in Baton Rouge

• Virginia College in Baton Rouge

The release invited students who have questions regarding Ascension College to contact the Board of Regents Proprietary School Office at 225-342-4253.