January 14, 2019

Nursing Students ‘Out of Luck’ After Private College Closes 70 Campuses

College building facade on empty campus

By Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN

One minute, you’re a nursing student heading to class with your book-laden backpack and your coffee in hand, but the next, you’re a stunned ex-student being told that your school has suddenly shut down and there’s nothing you can do about it. 

That’s exactly what happened to thousands of students when last month, more than 70 campuses through the Education Corporation of America (ECA), a for-profit college chain, announced that their “operations would be discounted” as of December 2018. The closure included several different campuses that served those seeking their nursing degrees, leading stunned nursing students suddenly without a way to complete their education—and no way to recoup the money they had already paid for their courses. All in all, The New York Times reported that almost 20,000 students were affected by the shut-downs. 

Next up: 10 Signs You’re A Nursing Student

The Danger of For-Profit Schools

ECA operated dozens on campuses that served students seeking formal and technical degrees, including Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America and Virginia College. According to several sources, the ECA campuses closed as a result of changes in requirements by the Department of Education that ultimately caused the schools to lose accreditation and funding to maintain operation.  

The president and CEO of ECA sent out a letter vaguely explaining the schools’ closures along with this super helpful piece of advice for students: “We encourage you to pursue your career training with another school in your area that offers the same or similar program.”

Um, thanks for the advice? 

Of course, that suggestion is perhaps easier said than done, since, as many students are finding out too late, there are challenges transferring credits from for-profit colleges to colleges that operate on a private or public basis. Unfortunately, the reason that for-profit colleges even existed and flourished in the first place is because they were more likely to take advantage of students that didn’t have access to the traditional educational model, such as those in more rural areas, parents who needed more flexibility like online classes, or low-income individuals who could qualify for the for-profit's more lax loaning programs. For-profit colleges also tend to have less stringent admission requirements, making them more accessible to those who haven’t taken tests like the ACT or SAT or who may not have the grade point needed for a private or public institution. 

An October 2018 article by Minority Nurse warned students looking to go into nursing to stay away from for-profit colleges, citing reasons such as a large number of debt students tend to incur while there, the risk of a degree that will ultimately useless, and a history of schools being shut down before. Sadly, their warnings may have not been heeded by all students and now, those who were part of the ECA system are realizing that they have been left high and dry, with no degree and a lot of debt. 

“I hope #VirginiaCollege makes things right for their students because this closing is so wrong. You have students who have worked so hard to make a better life for themselves and are now left with NO degrees only debt…” read one tweet. “My heart hurts, the way they did us. All my time and hard work. Late nights and the days I missed with the kids. Livid is an understatement,” wrote another Virginia college student.

What to Do if You’re a Nursing Student Affected by the Closures

  • According to the ECA’s FAQ page, students who enrolled through the program’s schools are basically out of luck in regards to their financial investment because no refunds for tuition will be given. 
  • However, the program does link out to several schools that offer transfer credits and some that even are giving reduced rates to students from ECA schools. 
  • They also recommended that students utilize the U.S. Department of Education’s website that has been specifically set up for students at closed ECA schools; the site helps guide students on where to go with their completed credits, how to check if they can transfer those credits, and how to complete their degrees. Students can also apply to have their school loans forgiven if they meet certain criteria for loans through a closed school. 

But most of all, if you’re a nursing student affected by the shutdown, don’t give up. Because it’s bad enough that a for-profit school system has negatively impacted the lives of so many, but it will be even worse if the country loses out on the addition of nurses that it so desperately needs. If you have the passion and dream to become a nurse, stay the course and don’t give up — the nursing field needs you and if you can get through this, you can most definitely get through the rest of your nursing degree. 

Next Up: Top 5 Nursing Schools of 2019

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