Students at Heald College in Honolulu are urgently seeking answers on everything from tuition refunds to transfer options after the for-profit college abruptly ceased operations Monday.
The college was one of 28 campuses across the country operated by parent-company Corinthian Colleges to shut down Monday. The closure — which comes just one week after the start of spring quarter — impacts about 1,050 students in Hawaii.
“It’s going to mess me up on the job market,” said Heald student Charles Haislip, who expected to graduate with an associate degree in criminal justice in July. “That part is really frustrating, and I am really upset about it.”
“This is not how I would like for you to have heard this difficult news,” Honolulu Campus President Michael Van Lear said in a letter to students posted on the campus’ Facebook page. “I, too, learned about our closing Sunday morning.”
Students are being told to attend a campus meeting on Wednesday or Thursday to pick up transcripts and find out what their options are moving forward. Students will not be able to get a copy of their diplomas, according to Corinthian’s website. Instead, transcripts will note any degree earned.
The college tried to find buyers for the 28 campuses, but was unable to do so “largely as a result of recent state and federal regulatory actions,” Corinthian Chairman and CEO Jack Massimino said in a letter to students posted on the website.
When spring classes started last week, Haislip said that students were reassured repeatedly by staff that the school was in no danger of closing.
“What makes me upset is we are dealing with a corporation,” Haislip said. “We know things don’t happen overnight.”
Students posting on Heald’s Facebook page Monday expressed dismay about the turn of events, including the timing of the closure — just days after many of them wrote checks for the spring quarter.
According to Heald’s 2014-15 catalogue, students who drop their classes during the add/drop period are entitled to a full refund of tuition. Sunday was the last day to add or drop classes.
A spokesman for Corinthian said he was unable to discuss whether students would be getting a refund for spring quarter classes, adding that tuition refunds would likely be a topic at the meetings.
In a vaguely-worded statement issued Monday, Corinthian seemed to indicate that students could still be on the hook for unpaid bills to the college.
“We haven’t yet gone through a reconciliation with the Department of Education, so we do not currently know what amounts are due from students,” the statement said. “We will try to make sure students are not individually responsible to Corinthian for their educational debts. A lot will depend on the Department of Education.”
Asked to clarify the statement, a Corinthian spokesman said he could not provide any more information.
The U.S. DOE said in a statement that current students at the shuttered college may be eligible to have their federal student loans “discharged,” a specific category of student loan forgiveness.
Haislip, an Army veteran, said he is also concerned about how the closure would impact students using the GI Bill to pay for Heald.
The bill, which some veterans use to pay for housing as well as tuition, provides 36 months of benefits. Haislip said he reached out to the VA to find out information about an extension for housing payments.
“I learned from the experience at Heald, but it’s two years wasted,” Haislip said.
Haislip said most of his classes had at least five or six veterans in attendance.
Meeting times on campus Wednesday and Thursday are organized by students’ last names. Students whose last names begin with the letters A through L are being told to come from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Meetings for students with names M through Z will be held from 1 to 4 p.m.
Haislip plans to go to one of the meetings, though he’s wasted no time in making other plans. On Monday he enrolled at Wayland Baptist University, where he had been a student before starting the criminal justice program at Heald two years ago.
His message to fellow Heald students was not to give up.
“Continue to pursue your education and do research and know your rights,” he said.
University of Hawaii community college advisors are expected to attend the meetings Wednesday and Thursday to discuss transfer options with students.
“The UH Community Colleges have several programs that are similar to those offered by Heald College,” John Morton, the vice president for community colleges, said in a written statement. “We are working to create a smooth a pathway for those Heald students who wish to transfer to the community colleges and complete their education.”
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