Virginia College officials announce closure of campuses nationwide

Virginia College officials announce closure of campuses nationwide
GF Default - Virginia College remains mum after graduation cancellation

(RNN) – Virginia College, one of the country’s largest for-profit colleges, is closing.

The Birmingham-based Education Corporation of America has around 20,000 students enrolled in disciplines like cosmetology, culinary arts, medical and dental assistant programs in 75 campuses across the U.S. The ECA also owns Brightwood College, which is also closing its doors.

Students are beyond frustrated after the word spread Wednesday that the school is no more.

“Wow, y’all are shutting down all the campuses, so where are we going to go now?” asked Marcus Williams.

What started as a partial closure of certain campuses back in September has now resulted in a sudden stop. School administrators announced Wednesday via email the entire system will now close its doors. Back in September, students in Baton Rouge were told they could transfer to any remaining campuses and administrators promised them they would have until June of 2019 to finish up. Now, that promise is broken and students like Williams are left scrambling to figure out what’s next.

Tuesday evening, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools suspended the college’s accreditation. Some employees will remain on campuses to help students get their transcripts and other documents in order.

“We are proud of our thousands of graduates who have entered the work force with skills they acquired at our schools along with our faculty and staff who have shown unwavering 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,” Dianne Worthington, a spokeswoman for the company said in a written statement to Higher Education.

“A lot of major campuses don’t accept the credit from Virginia College, so I feel like it’s not worth it,” said Williams. “It’s not worth my time.”

Just three months from finishing up his business program, Williams believes he was lied to earlier this year and wishes administrators were more up front about what was going on. “They say they didn’t know, but I think they knew, but they just didn’t know how to tell us at the time,” he added.

ECA reportedly fell behind on payments to creditors and rent for buildings. In a statement, the school blamed what they call a series of unfortunate circumstances for forcing them to close.

Tuesday evening, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools suspended the college’s accreditation. Some employees will remain on campuses to help students get their transcripts and other documents in order.

“We are proud of our thousands of graduates who have entered the work force with skills they acquired at our schools along with our faculty and staff who have shown unwavering 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,” Dianne Worthington, a spokeswoman for the company said in a written statement to Higher Education.

Williams says the whole thing has should have been handled better.

“If you gone shut down everything, then shut it down and let everybody know in advance,” said Williams. “You don’t just shut down one campus or two campuses and then months later come back and be like, ‘We’re shutting down everything nationwide.’ That’s just not right.”

Right or wrong, the school will close before the end of December, leaving hundreds of students in the cold and their education on hold. “Trying to find somewhere else to do it, I don’t think it’s going to be that easy,” said Williams.

The school sent out the following email to students:

Dear Students,

In early fall, we undertook a path to dramatically restructure Education Corporation of America (parent company of your school) in an effort to best posture it for the future. This plan entailed the teach out of 26 of our campuses and then the commitment of capital from our investors additional funds from investors.

However, recently, the Department of Education added requirements that made operating our schools more challenging. In addition, last night ACICS suspended our schools' accreditation with intent to withdraw. The uncertainty of these requirements resulted in an inability to acquire additional capital to operate our schools.

It is with extreme regret that this series of recent circumstances has forced us to discontinue the operations of our schools. Your campus will close this month. Please contact your Dean or Program Director for the specific closure date of your campus.

You will receive credit for all courses that you completed and passed by the closure date. Information on how to request your transcript will be posted at www.ecacolleges.com within the next few weeks. If you do not graduate this month, we encourage you to continue your career training by requesting your transcript and contacting local schools to determine transferability.

This is clearly not the outcome we envisioned for you or our schools, and it with the utmost regret that we inform you of this direction.

Stu Reed,

President & CEO

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