Biloxi site among lo­ca­tions shut by for-profit col­lege

The Sun Herald - - Front Page - BY STAFF AND WIRE RE­PORT JOHN FITZHUGH jc­[email protected]­her­ald.com

Vir­ginia Col­lege, a fi­nan­cially trou­bled chain of for-profit col­leges, has closed abruptly in dozens of lo­ca­tions na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing in Biloxi, af­ter its ac­cred­i­ta­tion was sus­pended.

Par­ent com­pany Ed­u­ca­tion Corp. of Amer­ica, based in Birm­ing­ham, on Wed­nes­day closed schools op­er­at­ing as Vir­ginia Col­lege, Bright­wood Col­lege, Bright­wood Ca­reer In­sti­tute, Ecotech In­sti­tute and Golf Acad­emy of Amer­ica.

The com­pany in Oc­to­ber said it owed $46.8 mil­lion to un­se­cured cred­i­tors, ask­ing a fed­eral judge in Alabama to keep land­lords from kick­ing it out of lo­ca­tions. The judge, Ab­dul K. Kal­lon, tem­po­rar­ily kept cred­i­tors at bay but in Novem­ber al­lowed his or­der to ex­pire af­ter de­ter­min­ing the fed­eral court had no ju­ris­dic­tion over the case.

The Biloxi cam­pus stopped ac­cept­ing new stu­dents in Septem­ber and was ini­tially sched­uled to close Aug. 1, 2019, which would have al­lowed en­rolled stu­dents to com­plete cour­ses. About 200 stu­dents were en­rolled in Biloxi. Be­fore the abrupt clo­sures, other cam­puses also were slated to wind down and “teach out” cur­rent stu­dents.

Pro­ject on Preda­tory Stu­dent Lend­ing Di­rec­tor Toby Mer­rill says stu­dents can ask the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion to can­cel loans if their cam­pus closed. The com­pany web­site says in­for­ma­tion about tran­scripts and rec­om­men­da­tions about trans­fers will be avail­able start­ing about Dec. 17.

“We will work with stu­dents to en­sure ac­cess to their tran­scripts so they can com­plete their stud­ies at an­other school,” spokes­woman Diane Wor­thing­ton said in an email to the Sun Her­ald. “We are proud of our thou­sands of grad­u­ates who have en­tered the work­force with skills they ac­quired at our schools along with our fac­ulty and staff who have shown un-

THE BILOXI CAM­PUS STOPPED AC­CEPT­ING NEW STU­DENTS IN SEPTEM­BER AND WAS INI­TIALLY SCHED­ULED TO CLOSE AUG. 1, 2019, WHICH WOULD HAVE AL­LOWED EN­ROLLED STU­DENTS TO COM­PLETE COUR­SES.

wa­ver­ing sup­port for our stu­dents.

“This is not the out­come that we en­vi­sioned and is one that we rec­og­nize will have a dra­matic ef­fect on our stu­dents, em­ploy­ees, and many partners.”

The Ac­cred­it­ing Coun­cil for In­de­pen­dent Col­leges and Schools said in a let­ter sus­pend­ing ac­cred­i­ta­tion that any owner or se­nior man­ager of the com­pany could be barred from serv­ing at an­other ACICSac­cred­ited in­sti­tu­tion un­less plans are in place to fin­ish ed­u­cat­ing or re­fund money to stu­dents at the closed schools.

The ACICS let­ter, dated Dec. 4, also said, “The coun­cil is se­ri­ously con­cerned about the ed­u­ca­tional out­comes for the ap­prox­i­mately 15,000 en­rolled stu­dents across all cam­puses of Vir­ginia Col­lege LLC, which in­cludes stu­dents who are set to com­plete at the end of De­cem­ber 2018 term ...”

Mis­sis­sippi Gulf Coast Com­mu­nity Col­lege has just an­nounced that it will have an outreach ses­sion for for­mer Vir­ginia Col­lege stu­dents at 2 p.m. Dec. 13 at its Ad­vanced Man­u­fac­tur­ing Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter in Gulf­port. Reg­is­tra­tion is avail­able on the MGCCC web­site.

In Oc­to­ber, stu­dents seen out­side Vir­ginia Col­lege in North Biloxi thought the cam­pus would con­tinue op­er­at­ing un­til Au­gust. But the school abruptly closed ear­lier this week.

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