Students at Virginia College in Augusta react to school closure

CSRA News

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF/AP) – It was called career training designed to help fit your life.  Now students and employees of Virginia College’s Augusta campus wondering how the closing of the College will change their lives.

“I get a call from my boss and she tells me that you might want to go to your school because the school is getting shut down,” Kwashenda Gillespie told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk when asked when she first learned the news. “Now that i’m up here, they’re telling me all the hours that I put in, all the money I invested into this school is gone.”

Gillespie has been attending the school since 2016. Graduating in August and set to graduate again in January, she’s concerned about being left in the dark over the situation. 

“We kinda had a feeling that something was going to happen to the school,” she stated. “The president would tell us that it’s fine, we’re accreditation, everything’s great. we would have all these meetings that said everything was great and not to worry and then all of a sudden everything that you knew, your gut was telling you to believe is no longer true,” she added.

Jasmine Parkmon is another student affected by the closure. 

“We were supposed to graduate in March,” she said. “We were supposed to walk graduate and go to state boards to get our licenses to be master cosmetologists,” she added.

Some employees tell NewsChannel 6 that they weren’t even notified until Wednesday morning.

“They called us into the conference room and said that our jobs were over and we had to pack up right then and there,” Monica Roberson said. “We have no severance pay, no pay for the week, no nothing, we just gotta go,” she added.

According to published reports, employees received an email saying the Department of Education added new restrictions on the schools’ access to Title IV student aid.

By Tuesday night, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools suspended the College’s accreditation.

Because of this, the company couldn’t secure capital it needed for operations, according to Inside Higher Ed. 

“The people that graduated, ones that have the certificates and diplomas and all of that, we don’t know if we could take that to a job and say ‘Hey, we graduated does this count’,” Gillespie shared.

This is not the first time in recent months the College has been in the spotlight.

In November, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by the owner’s of Virginia College, Education Corporation of America, seeking to gain access to Title IV Federal Student Aid money while undergoing financial restructuring.

Title IV financial aid is federally funded aid such as Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Direct Loans.

“I’m angry,” Karson Foster said. “We’re all pretty angry,” she added.

When NewsChannel 6 contacted the Education Corporation of America on the status of the Augusta campus following the dismissal of the lawsuit, we were told: 

“Our plans with regard to the Augusta campus have not changed, i.e. we are continuing to operate it as usual and have no plans to teach out courses or close the campus.”

Shawn did try to reach out to the media relations contact for the company to learn what changed since our communications last month. He received the following statement:

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.    

We are expecting to learn about transcript request processes and recommendations on where to transfer on/around December 17.

The College’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube accounts have been deactivated as of Wednesday evening. The “request information” section of https://www.vc.edu displayed a “page not found” error message.

“I actually like Virginia College. I like coming here. It accommodated my schedule and everything. It just sucks to have it closed,” one student said.

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.

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.

Virginia College in Augusta offered “a variety of programs, resulting in both certificates and associate’s degrees in fields including Business Administration Program Information, Cosmetology Program Information, and Health and Medical, according to its website.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Institute of Cosmetology has informed NewsChannel 6 that the school will take on any displaced students and/or staff members affected by the Virginia College closure. “We will take student transfer hours and we will work to place staff,” officials said.

The school has two locations in the River Region. 

You can contact the Dean of Admissions at 706-855-0010 x 22.

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