Students at Virginia College can complete current term before closure

By Allyson Henning - Reporter, Colette DuChanois - Web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - For-profit school Virginia College is shutting the doors at its Jacksonville campus, but current students will be able to complete their term.

The students at the campus on Beach Boulevard at University Boulevard told News4Jax on Wednesday that their last day of class will be Friday.

Education Corporation of America released a statement reading:

After many years of training students for new careers, it is with a heavy heart that today we announce that Education Corporation of America (ECA) is closing all its career colleges effective with the completion of the current module or term for most students. 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 workforce 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.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the school lost its accreditation in May, and has been appealing the decision.

Media outlets nationwide have reported closures of other campuses, including in Birmingham, Alabama, Greenville, South Carolina, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Students at the Virginia College campus in Jacksonville left the campus frustrated Wednesday after they said they got word their school is shutting down for good.

Throughout the afternoon, students could be seen coming in and out, getting their transcripts and trying to figure out how they're going to finish their programs. 

They said the closure came as a surprise to them and their teachers. One student sent News4Jax photos showing empty rooms and the front desk unattended. 

Hannah Garcia said she started her school day as usual Wednesday but when she got back from a coffee break, Jacksonville police were parked out front and there a ruckus going on inside.

"We were, like, 'What is going on?' Everybody is crying, cursing," Garcis said. "One of our classmates was, like, 'Did you not hear?' And we were, like, 'Hear what?' And they said that this Friday for medical assistants, that there is no more school for us, that they're closing down due to financial problems."

With only one class left to go, Garcia said the news came as a shock. She was set to start job hunting in just a few months.  

"I cried," she said. "I was very upset and I didn't know how to feel. I got so sick to my stomach."

She wasn't the only one.

"It's just unannounced," student Leticia Santiago said. "I am confused about why all of a sudden do it at the Christmas holiday."

Virginia College offers courses in fields including business administration, cosmetology, culinary arts, health care and information technology.

Virginia College is a holding of Birmingham-based Education Corporation of America, one the country's largest for-profit college operators that owns more than 75 campuses, according to AL.com.

News4Jax's sister station KSAT-TV also reported Wednesday that Brightwood College, which is also operated by Education Corporation of America, campuses in San Antonio, Texas, have closed their doors.

What's next for displaced students?

Edward Waters College announced Monday Dec. 10 that it would be offering information sessions to students left in the lurch by the closing of Virginia College's Jacksonville campus.

The one-hour sessions will be at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday Dec. 11 at the Milne Auditorium at Edward Waters College at 1658 Kings Road.

"The closure of Virginia College in Jacksonville creates an unfortunate uncertainty for students who now must find ways to continue their studies elsewhere," EWC vice president Dr. Thomas Calhoun said. "Edward Waters College, a 152-year-old institution in Jacksonville, stands ready to assist all Virginia College students in reaching their educational goals."

To RSVP for the information sessions, visit https://www.ewc.edu/rsvp/.

Florida State College at Jacksonville will also offer specialized assistance to students looking to continue their education. It announced Tuesday that the school will waive the $25 application fee until Jan. 15 for current Virginia College students or those who withdrew from Virginia College on or after December 1, 2018.

After applying to FSCJ, students should submit their official transcripts to the FSCJ Admissions Office for evaluation with consideration for Prior Learning Assessments, which may provide students the opportunity to receive credit for prior coursework taken or through experiential learning that is equal to college-level learning. These assessments will be done on an individual basis.

Once students have applied and submitted transcripts, they can work with the dedicated academic advisor specifically assigned to work with Virginia College students to ease the process of transferring to FSCJ. 

“FSCJ understands the urgency of helping get these students enrolled back in classes without losing time or momentum,” said FSCJ Interim President Kevin Hyde. “Staying on track while completing your education is essential to the success of all students, especially those in this very unfortunate situation.”

For additional questions and information about transitioning from Virginia College to FSCJ, students should email: welcome@fscj.edu or call the Virginia College Admissions Advisor at 904-357-8917.

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