The I-Team received phone calls and emails from families who said they were furious that their children’s language school called it quits in the middle of class and after the company quit. raised money for upcoming classes. Now frustrated families say they can’t get answers.
The Language Stars company has been promoting its online education and providing foreign language lessons to children for 20 years. It abruptly closed its doors in February.
Some parents said they paid for the lessons in advance.
“We’re probably around $600 to $700,” Geraldine Tillman said.
Tillman’s daughter, Molly, has been enjoying her Spanish lessons at Language Stars since 2014. Everything seemed normal the last time they saw their teacher.
“We said goodbye, see you next Saturday, and that was it. We got an email the next morning saying they had closed completely,” she said.
The Language Stars website said: “Unfortunately we are unable to repay our debts as they come due and have exhausted all sources of funding.”
The families said there had been no warnings and they had heard nothing about possible refunds. Language Stars had a total of 17 locations, mostly in Chicago and the suburbs, with some in Virginia and Washington, D.C. An academic year of classes cost between $2,300 and $3,500.
“We tried to contact them, the website was taken down,” Tillman said.
A dozen angry families contacted the I-Team. Several sent proof of payment for canceled classes.
The Illinois attorney general said he would “investigate.” The AG and the Better Business Bureau said they had received similar complaints. One, which the BBB called “blatant”, alleged that Language Stars was collecting tuition fees and registering a day before closing.
“We would enroll in the spring for the entire school year in its entirety,” Tillman said.
Tillman said she almost paid more for summer camp.
“A two-week, full-day program was between $1,800 and $1,900,” she said. “That year we started getting a lot, an earlier influx of emails than usual.”
Leslie Lancry is the founder of Language Stars. The I-Team sent emails, letters and knocked on his door at his Lincoln Park home.
The I-Team also reached out to CEO Matt Kinnich. When they received no response, they caught up with him at Northfield.
He left without answering any questions.
The I-Team also contacted HCP & Co., a private equity firm that invested in Language Stars. He did not answer.
“The responsible thing to do would be to at least reimburse people,” Tillman said.
The Language Stars site directs parents to an email address should they still wish to be connected to one of the teachers at the school. It says nothing about refunds, and parents like Tillman said they weren’t getting a response from the company.
“I think a letter of explanation would be appreciated,” she said.
If you lose your tuition at Language Stars, the Illinois Attorney General’s office said you can file a lawsuit on their website, and if the amount is less than $10,000, you can file a lawsuit in front of small claims court.
So far, records show the company has not filed for bankruptcy.
When you pay for a service in advance, you must use a credit card in order to dispute the charge. Also ask if the contract states what your reimbursement rights may be if a business suddenly closes.
Click here to view the closing statement and contact information for Language Stars.
Click here file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General.
Click here for more information on filing a claim with Small Claims Court Pro Se.
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