BUSINESS

Everest College students angered, confused by Corinthian closure

The abrupt closure of the remaining Corinthian Colleges Inc. schools left many students surprised

The abrupt decision to close the remaining Corinthian Colleges Inc. schools left many students in shock Monday.

More than 20 students gathered outside Everest College in Alhambra looking for answers after they received emails or calls Sunday saying the school was closing. Several were supposed to take finals Monday.

“They couldn't even let us finish,” said Mayra Ramirez, 21, of Los Angeles, who was studying to be a dental assistant. “All that time wasted, studying for days.”

Santa Ana-based Corinthian owned Everest College and two other main companies, WyoTech and Heald College. The decision to shutter the remaining two dozen campuses immediately leaves 16,000 students scrambling for alternatives.

At the Alhambra campus Monday, two security guards passed out a copy of an email detailing meetings set up for Tuesday and Wednesday. Students were not allowed inside.

Some said they heard about the closing through text messages, recorded calls or emails from Corinthian. Others found out only through word of mouth.

Julio Colis, 19, said he was worried about the $10,000 in loans he took out to finance his education. He was studying to be a dental assistant, and said his plan B was to go to East Los Angeles College.

“I'm worried about the debt we have, like what we would have to pay on it,” he said. “I had talked to one of the counselors before about getting a bad feeling about this place and she said, 'Don't worry.'"

High levels of student debt have been a central issue for Corinthian, which has been under investigation by more than a dozen state attorneys general and federal investigators over allegations of aggressive and fraudulent marketing, and unfair financial aid practices.

Median federal loan debt for Corinthian's Everest College programs in Southern California ranged from $9,000 for a dental assistant program to $28,000 for a criminal justice degree, according to school disclosures. The average price at one of Corinthian's Everest campuses in Southern California is $20,000 to $25,000 per year, according to federal data.

Corinthian has struggled since the U.S. Department of Education last June restricted its access to federal student aid — the source of nearly 85% of its revenue. The department was concerned that the for-profit school chain was falsifying graduates' job placement rates, and officials said Corinthian wasn't providing sufficient documentation to answer their questions.

Lacking access to crucial funding, the company in July agreed to sell off 85 campuses and online programs, and wind down operations at others. The company sold more than half the schools to a nonprofit student loan servicer last November; the closure announcement Sunday affected the remaining two dozen schools.

Students who attended the schools that suddenly shut down will be eligible for refunds of federal student loans, or can try transferring credits to other institutions.

 “I'm probably going to have to start all over again at a new school,” said Erika Adame, 19, from South Los Angeles.

Some students said they had become frustrated with the coursework in recent months, noting that information they were taught sometimes conflicted with other teachers' lectures. Others said they didn't have books for three months, forcing them to rely on photocopies of readings.

Others, like Lisa De Santos, 39, who is in the medical assistant program, said they enjoyed the experience until now.

"I never had a problem," she said. "We had a lot of support. I'm going to miss this place."

Others are simply frustrated with what they now believe was a waste of time.

Alice Bernal, 45, is already a California licensed X-ray technician, but chose to come to Everest in Alhambra for the medical assistant program to strengthen her skills at other jobs.

“It's not us who quit on us,” she said. “It's the school that quit on us.”

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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