Accreditation issue could jeopardize other for-profit Austin colleges

Career Point College_362597

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Officials with Career Point College say they are working on a way for students to pick up their records after the school abruptly shuttered its doors over the weekend.

In a statement posted on their website Monday afternoon, Career Point College says they are working to reach an agreement with local institutions to conduct a “teach-out” of each students’ current program. “Several institutions are interested and we will work with them this week hoping to finalize the details,” the statement went on to say.

Career Point College’s nearly 500 students between its Austin and San Antonio campuses found out about the closure Sunday evening via emails and alerts. The for-profit college’s notice of closure, sent to all members of the campus, states the management team discovered three long-term employees had collaborated to violate rules related to student aid funds. After an investigation, the president self-reported the inappropriate activity to the Department of Education and provided a plan to repay the funds taken.

The notice goes on to say the DOE restricted government funds to the college which made the college unable to continue operations. Monday morning, students stood outside the Austin location, in search of answers.

“Where is our money? What did that pay for? I mean, how are we going to get it back? That’s the question. How are we going to get it back?” student Rita Watson asked.

Student Stanley Anyanwu said he quit his job to go to school full time. “So what do I do now? I’m losing. Everything. So I need something to happen.”

“We worked hard, we sacrificed family, we sacrificed work, we sacrificed a lot to come here,” student Renae Rodriguez echoed.

The school had programs in fields such as business, medical, nursing, cosmetology and information technology.

Last week, the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board was worried the recent abrupt closure of ITT Technical Institute’s across the country would have an impact on other for-profit colleges in Texas, specifically the ones that get their accreditation from Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). Due to the nature of their business model, 33 college campuses that are accredited by ACICS are on the state’s watch list that could end up in the same position as ITT Tech and Career Point College.

In Austin, along with Career Point College, KXAN found there are four other schools that have ACICS accreditation:

  • Le Cordon Bleu (which is already slated for closure in 2017)
  • Texas Health and Science University
  • The Recording Conservatory of Austin
  • Virginia College

For-profit colleges with the ACICS accreditation have been encouraged to seek other accreditation. In a statement, the Higher Education Coordinating Board said, “Prior to the closure, the Coordinating Board had been in communication with Career Point College regarding its pending change in accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) to the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

KXAN reached out to Texas Health and Science University President Lisa Lin, who said the university has two accreditors and is doing fine.

Virginia College’s Marketing and Communications President Diane Worthington told KXAN the college has been in the process of seeking another accreditation since June. She said the process can easily take a year. Worthington said Virginia College officials are telling students not to panic, focus on studies and complete their programs. “We really feel like we are in a position to have a seamless transition.”

Worthington added that the college is reviewing Career Point’s curriculum to see what students can transition to Virginia College.

Over at The Recording Conservatory of Austin, Director John Stinson says the school “has always and continues to remain in good standing with our current accreditor, the state, the Department of Education, The Department of Veteran’s Affairs and our independent third party financial auditor.”

Stinson says the students are well taken care of, The Recording Conservatory of Austin is not at risk, and it is on no state watch list.

“We are in absolutely no danger of closing our doors, regardless of what happens to ACICS,” Stinson said in a statement. “We are currently in the process of switching to a new accreditor, ACCSC.  We anticipate with great confidence that this process will go smoothly and with no disruption to our students.”

The federal government tightened rules on student loans, which also contributed to ITT Technical Institute’s shut down last month, impacting 3,000 students in Texas in addition to the 35,000 ITT students nationwide. For-profit colleges get a lot of money from federal student loans and grants, which is one reason the government is cracking down. In 2009, nearly 1 out of 10 students in college attended a for-profit school. That same year, students in for-profit schools claimed almost one-third of all new student loans. Five years later, nearly half of the students who borrowed to attend for-profit colleges had defaulted on those loans.

Last week, the board says the U.S. Department of Education put Career Point College on what’s called a heightened cash monitoring. It was at that time the board sent a letter requiring Career Point disclose specific information in case the campuses closed. The information was due Friday, Oct. 21, 2016. The Higher Education Coordinating Board has specific rules requiring institutions to notify the state before closing but Career Point College did not.

The board requested information regarding:

  • The “self-reported fraud;”
  • A listing of students, programs of study, and expected graduation dates;
  • Student email contact information;
  • Status of tuition, refunds due, current student account balances;
  • Comparable programs;
  • Current or pending articulation, transfer or teach-out agreements;
  • Information on a permanent custodian of student records; and
  • Financial resources available to ensure students can compete their degree programs.

So far, the Higher Education Coordinating Board says it has not received the information. The board created a resources page on its website for students who have gone through a school closure. The board says it hopes to have new information specific to the Career Point College closure this week.

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