SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -The Savannah campus of Virginia College announced Wednesday that the school is closing.
An admissions representative with the school says that the staff were informed at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday that they no longer had jobs.
The college is accredited through the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. A search reveals that accreditation for the campus is set to expire at the end of the month.
The rep says that the decision to close the campus came after the Savannah location lost its accreditation following an ACICS visit in September.
Education Corporation of America oversees operations at Virginia College, as well as others.
Hundreds of people tied to the college are trying to process the news, while wondering what’s next.
“Definitely hits home, especially this close to the holiday, a couple weeks before Christmas. It definitely comes at an inopportune time," said Brian Bailey, Senior Admissions Director, Virginia College.
Bailey serves as a senior admissions director for Virginia College in Savannah, and that gave him yet another perspective of the impact of the sudden news.
“I mean, of course, we saw a lot of students crying, upset on campus, and rightfully so, because again, some only literally probably only had a couple of weeks, a few months, or had just started," Bailey said.
Oshalonia Johnson was just a few months into a massage therapy course, and says she’s now looking to move to Atlanta to finish her training.
“It was really devastating news to get today, but I saw something in every individual in that class, and I know we can do this. That was our motto, ‘we got this.’ So this was something to get thrown in our way, but we all have that chance to knock it out and keep pushing,” she said.
Taking a deeper look into how the school made the decision to shut down, the CEO of Viriginia College’s parent company had this to say in part to students and faculty:
“However, recently, the Department of Education added requirements that made operating our schools more challenging. In addition, last night ACICS suspended our schools' accreditation with intent to withdraw. The uncertainty of these requirements resulted in an inability to acquire additional capital to operate our schools. It is with extreme regret that this series of recent circumstances has forced us to discontinue the operations of our schools effective with the completion of the current module or term for most students."
As for what’s next for students and will be expected of Virginia College moving forward, the Accreditation Council for Independent Colleges and Schools had this to say:
“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.”
The Birmingham-based Education Corporation of America has around 20,000 students enrolled in disciplines like cosmetology, culinary arts, medical and dental assistant programs in 75 campuses across the U.S. The ECA also owns Brightwood College, which is also closing its doors.
The ECA closed a third of its campuses for both chains earlier this year as a part of a court-approved receivership, Inside for Higher Education reports. However, the company fell behind on payments to creditors and rent on buildings.
Tuesday evening, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools suspended the college’s accreditation. Some employees will remain on campuses to help students get their transcripts and other documents in order.
“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,” Dianne Worthington, a spokeswoman for the company said in a written statement to Higher Education.
CEO and President of Education Corporation of America Stu Reed sent an e-mail to all students on Wednesday morning.
You can read a full transcript of that e-mail below.
Stay with WTOC as we work to bring updates to this developing story.