Virginia College student worries about loan debt

One student says she owes $19,000 for education that didn't lead to better job

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) - The pursuit of higher education has come to a screeching halt for Virginia College students in Savannah and across the country as the school's parent company closed doors Wednesday. 

All media inquiries were directed to the Education Corporation of America, the Alabama-based company that operates 33 schools, mainly in the southeast, including the campus in the Savannah Mall.  

Virginia College lost it's accreditation from the Council for Independent Colleges & Schools, which issued the following statement late Thursday afternoon:

On December 4, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) notified the Education Corporation of America, which operates Virginia College LLC, of its decision to withdraw, by suspension, the current grants of accreditation of all the institutions owned by Virginia College.The December 4 action follows show–cause directives issued by the Council on May 8 and September 5, 2018, regarding concerns in the areas of institutional management, communications, curriculum review and revision, construction oversight, and employer satisfaction.  While the institution took steps to address these areas of concern, the Council has since found additional areas of concern across various campuses, including student progress, outcomes, student satisfaction, certification and licensure, and staff turnover.  Additionally, the Council determined that Virginia College is unlikely to be able to continue operations and meet its financial obligations based on its current financial status.  These concerns were initially outlined on October 30 and updated on November 12.  In the latest action, the Council also raised serious concerns about the educational outcomes for the approximately 15,000 enrolled students across all campuses of Virginia College, which include students who are set to complete their studies at the end of the December 2018 term. As such, the Council requires Virginia College to submit evidence of the successful completion of programs for students scheduled to graduate in December.  Additionally, the Council will require evidence of executed transfer agreements to other institutions for students still enrolled after December in order to facilitate the completion of their program of instruction. This information must be submitted to the Council no later than December 19.

34-year-old Khaleeda Sterling says she graduated from Virginia College's Savannah Campus in June, 2017, but works in a warehouse. She says the school never helped her find employment in the healthcare field as promised when she enrolled in a 15-month program to become a medical assistant.

"I feel Virginia College is a scandal, I mean they promise things and things are not happening. You don't, you don't get the things that were promised to you.  You're taking out all this money to go to this school, you don't get the employment," Sterling said. 

She says she has to start all over because she's not been able to find a school that will accept the 66 credits she earned at Virginia College, amassing a student loan debt of more than $19,000.

"I should be in my scrubs.  I should be in some type of medical aspect and I'm not.  I just wish something can be done, I mean I really wish that we can, you know, have our debt forgiven," said Sterling. "Some of us took out other loans, that's money we're gonna have to pay back, but if we don't have jobs, then how?"

News 3 sought the advice of a post secondary education expert. Antoinette Flores works with the Center for American Progress, a think-tank in Washington, D.C.

Flores spoke about Virginia College students options with their student loan debt.  She says there are forgiveness programs that can help them.

"For students that are enrolled currently, as the schools close they have two options: one is to apply for closed school loan discharge which means that the federal government forgives all the federal student loans the students have there are some downfalls to that in that if you if you apply for and receive closed school discharge you can no longer use your credit as far as students that have already graduated we have something that is called borrowed defense," Flores said. "That believe that they have been misled and can prove that they were misled can apply for forgiveness."

She adds that the writing has been on the wall for awhile regarding the collapse of Virginia College.

"They announced a couple of months ago that they were closing campuses and then they came to this kind of, dire situation where they sued the department trying to stay afloat. Now the problem is for at least two months it's been very clear that they were about to go under.  But instead of making plans to put options in place for students, that they could actually transfer and have their credits accepted, they focused on saving themselves, enrolling more students, and getting as much money from federal tax payers as possible," said Flores. 

Neither the Education Corporation of America, nor local Virginia College administrators in Savannah responded to our request for comment about the school's closure.

Students with questions are asked to present them in-person at the Virginia College campus in Savannah.

Read more on this story here from the Washington Post.

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