JACKSON, Miss. (AP/FOX5) — A troubled chain of for-profit colleges has closed abruptly in dozens of locations nationwide, after its accrediting agency suspended approval.
Birmingham, Alabama-based Education Corp. of America 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 judge to keep landlords from kicking it out of locations.
On Wednesday, students in Las Vegas were clearing out books. Many said they were shocked.
"We were about to graduate," Maria Alfaro said.
"Now we're just $17,000 in debt with no degree, no nothing," Charmain Frederico chimed in.
ECA earlier announced it was closing some locations once students completed classes, but said it would continue others.
Project on Predatory Student Lending Director Toby Merrill says students can ask the U.S. Department of Education to cancel loans if a school closes.
"Everything we have worked for is gone, everyone is screwed," Frederico said.
Many students in Las Vegas were aspiring nurses or medical assistants.
"This is a scam," Charles Eberhardt said. "Now we are all in debt, and have no idea where to go. This is just all chaotic."
The company website says information about transcripts and recommendations about transfers will be available starting about Dec. 17.
ECA released a statement Wednesday.
After many years of training students for new careers, it is with a heavy heart that today we announce that Education Corporation of America (ECA) is closing all its career colleges effective with the completion of the current module or term for nearly all students. We will work with students to ensure access to their transcripts 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. 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.