Sud­den clo­sure of for-profit col­leges leaves ques­tions

The Modesto Bee - - Local - BY JOHN HOLLAND jhol­[email protected]­bee.com

Stu­dents at Bright­wood Col­lege in Sal­ida and more than 70 other for-profit cam­puses were left with ques­tions Thurs­day about their sud­den clo­sures.

The par­ent com­pany in Birm­ing­ham, Ala., an­nounced Wed­nes­day that it would shut the schools be­cause of a pend­ing loss of ac­cred­i­ta­tion.

Fri­day is the last day for the Kier­nan Court cam­pus, which trains stu­dents to be den­tal and med­i­cal as­sis­tants, res­pi­ra­tory ther­a­pists, vo­ca­tional nurses and a few other med­i­cal ca­reers. The lo­cal man­age­ment re­ferred the Modesto Bee to a spokesman for Ed­u­ca­tion Cor­po­ra­tion of Amer­ica, but he did not pro­vide de­tails as of Thurs­day evening.

Den­tal as­sist­ing stu­dent Rubi Ta­mayo of Keyes said she hopes to trans­fer to Car­ring­ton Col­lege in Stock­ton fol­low­ing a Thurs­day meet­ing at Bright­wood, where stu­dents heard about these op­tions. An­other meet­ing Fri­day will deal with what to do about stu­dent loans, which for Ta­mayo amounts to about $13,000.

Toby Mer­rill, who di­rects the Pro­ject on Preda­tory Stu­dent Lend­ing at Har­vard Law School, said stu­dents can ask the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion to can­cel loans if a school closes. How­ever, that op­por­tu­nity doesn’t ap­ply if a stu­dent trans­fers cred­its or if a school hires a suc­ces­sor to of­fer stu­dents classes to com­plete their pro­grams.

The ECA cam­puses are in 21 states un­der the names of Bright­wood Col­lege, Bright­wood Ca­reer In­sti­tute, Vir­ginia Col­lege, Ecotech In­sti­tute and Golf Acad­emy of Amer­ica.

ECA spokes­woman Diane Wor­thing­ton said that at most lo­ca­tions, Fri­day would be the last day of classes, and stu­dents would get aca­demic credit for this term. One ECA in­sti­tu­tion, New Eng­land Col­lege of Busi­ness, is not closing.

In a let­ter to stu­dents, ECA CEO Stu­art Reed said the loss of ac­cred­i­ta­tion, along with added re­quire­ments from the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, made the com­pany un­able to raise more money to op­er­ate the schools while it sought to re­or­ga­nize.

“It is with ex­treme re­gret that this se­ries of re­cent cir­cum­stances has forced us to dis­con­tinue the op­er­a­tion of our schools,” Reed wrote.

Court doc­u­ments filed by the com­pany said its lag­ging revenue left it un­able to make pay­ments on its debt or rental fees, and that it faced evic­tion at sev­eral cam­puses. ECA es­ti­mated it owed $66 mil­lion at the time.

ECA largely blamed fall­ing en­roll­ment on an up­swing in the econ­omy, which left fewer adults head­ing to school for job skills, and on in­creased fed­eral reg­u­la­tion of the for-profit col­lege in­dus­try. The chain was over­seen by the Ac­cred­it­ing Coun­cil for In­de­pen­dent Col­leges and Schools.

The sud­den clo­sure drew crit­i­cism from Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment, which said it had been work­ing with the com­pany to ar­range a shut-down that gave stu­dents time to trans­fer.

The As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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