Virginia Col­lege closes all cam­puses

The Telegraph (Macon) - - Front Page - BY LAURA CORLEY lcor­[email protected]­con.com

A fi­nan­cially trou­bled for­profit col­lege has abruptly closed all of its cam­puses, in­clud­ing ones in Ma­con and Colum­bus, af­ter los­ing its ac­cred­i­ta­tion.

Virginia Col­lege’s Ma­con cam­pus closed Fri­day, leav­ing its 150 stu­dents with­out a school or a plan to con­tinue study­ing.

It was bad news for stu­dents like Erica Ham, who was study­ing busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion at the cam­pus off Eisen­hower Park­way.

“I don’t even know where to be­gin,” Ham said as she walked to the lobby of the 50,000 square-foot build­ing that was once a KMart store. “I think it’s just now hit­ting me that the school is done for and there’s noth­ing to do about it.”

The school’s Birm­ing­ham, Alabama-based par­ent com­pany, Ed­u­ca­tion Corp. of Amer­ica, an­nounced in late Oc­to­ber it would close sev­eral of its cam­puses to help shore up its fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion.

The school, geared to­ward non-tra­di­tional stu­dents and adults seek­ing job skills, has for years been af­fected by lower en­roll­ment num­bers and low job place­ment rates, ac­cord­ing to let­ters from ac­cred­i­ta­tion agen­cies and court records.

The Ma­con and Colum­bus cam­puses, among 15 oth­ers that stopped en­rolling stu­dents in Septem­ber, ini­tially were set to close in June 2019 and Au­gust 2019, re­spec­tively. The de­layed clo­sures would have al­lowed stu­dents to com­plete cour­ses.

How­ever, this week, the com­pany abruptly an­nounced it would close all of its cam­puses.

ECA spokes­woman Diane Wor­thing­ton said the com­pany “will work with stu­dents to en­sure ac­cess to their tran-

scripts so they can com­plete their stud­ies at an­other school.”

“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 un­wa­ver­ing sup­port for our stu­dents,” Wor­thing­ton said. “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 Col- leges and Schools said in a let­ter sus­pend­ing ac­cred­i­ta­tion that any owner or se­nior man­ager of the com­pany could be barred from serv­ing at an­other ACICS-ac­cred­ited in­sti­tu­tion un­less plans are in place to fin­ish ed­u­cat­ing or re­fund money to stu­dents at the closed schools.

The loss of ac­cred­i­ta­tion, cou­pled with a cut to Fed­eral fi­nan­cial aid from the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, are among the fi­nal nails in the cof­fin for Virginia Col­lege.

The depart­ment was in daily con­ver­sa­tions with ECA and po­ten­tial tea­chout part­ners to as­sist as many stu­dents as pos­si­ble to find a new in­sti­tu­tional home, said Liz Hill, press sec­re­tary at the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

“Ed­u­ca­tion Cor­po­ra­tion of Amer­ica’s de­ci­sion to sud­denly close its cam­puses is highly dis­ap­point­ing and not best for its stu­dents,” Hill said. “There were other op­tions avail­able. … In­stead of tak­ing the next few months to close in an orderly fash­ion, ECA took the easy way out and left 19,000 stu­dents scram­bling to find a way to fin­ish the ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram they started.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press, Ge­or­gia Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing re­porter Grant Blanken­ship and Sun Her­ald re­porter Anita Lee con­trib­uted to this re­port.

BEAU CA­BELL bca­[email protected]­con.com

Virginia Col­lege is clos­ing down all of its cam­puses af­ter los­ing ac­cred­i­ta­tion.

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