One of the country’s largest for-profit college operators on Wednesday announced the closure of all of its campuses and began notifying employees that their positions would be eliminated.
Education Corporation of America owns more than 75 campuses and enrolls at least 20,000 students in mostly certificate-granting professional disciplines such as cosmetology, culinary arts and medical and dental assistant programs. It operates chains including Virginia College and Brightwood College.
The shutdown follows years of declining enrollment for the chain. More recently, the privately held company scrambled to turn around its troubled finances by closing about a third of its campuses and pursuing a corporate overhaul through a court-approved receivership. But ECA continued to be dogged by creditors after falling behind on payments and rent for many campus locations. In October the company filed a lawsuit, which was later dismissed, against the U.S. Department of Education in an attempt to maintain its access to federal student aid.
In an email to campus employees Wednesday morning, ECA CEO Stu Reed said that the Department of Education had added new restrictions on its access to Title IV student aid. And on Tuesday night, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools suspended the colleges' accreditation. Those steps meant the company couldn't secure the additional capital needed to operate its campuses, he said.
The company also told employees that it would complete current course modules, which will finish in the next two weeks. A skeleton crew of employees will remain on campuses to assist students with obtaining documentation on their programs.
“After many years of training students for new careers, it is with a heavy heart that today we announce that Education Corporation of America is closing all its career colleges effective with the completion of the current module or term for most students,” Diane Worthington, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a written statement. “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 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.”
Inside Higher Ed will add to this coverage with a full news article tomorrow.