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Brightwood College San Antonio Tells Students It's 'Permanently Closing'

Students pick up transcripts at the Ingram campus of Brightwood College San Antonio after learning their school was closing Dec. 5 2018.
Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
Students pick up transcripts at the Ingram campus of Brightwood College San Antonio after learning their school was closing Wednesday.

Updated 9 p.m.

Students at Brightwood College in San Antonio were told Wednesday that their school was closing effective immediately.

The for-profit college has two campuses in San Antonio with about 800 students studying to become vocational nurses, paralegals, medical assistants and dental assistants.

Standing outside the Ingram campus, vocational nursing student Joel Akuta said he found out Brightwood was closing during class.

“Thirty minutes before they closed the school they put everyone out of class and they said, ‘Take a long break.’ And by the time we all were getting back, they gave us a paper saying the school had lost its accreditation and we all had to go,” Akuta said.

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools notified Brightwood’s parent company Tuesday that it was suspending accreditation of all of its campuses, citing concerns over student progress, staff turnover, and unpaid debts.

Akuta was almost a year into the 13-month nursing program at Brightwood. Now, he’s worried the loss of accreditation will prevent his classes from transferring.

“I had to take out (federal) loans, and just yesterday had to pay my tuition too and I’m not getting that money back,” said Akuta, adding that he was told he couldn’t get his tuition money back because he paid in cash. “I paid $400 yesterday, so I’m pretty mad about it.”

A sign posted Wednesday in the door of the Ingram campus said it was “permanently closing and all future classes have been canceled.” The door of the San Pedro campus was locked. When asked whether the campus was closing, a man who opened the door said “no comment.”

San Pedro medical assistant student Nancy Tehas said she drove to the campus to find out information about her student loans.

“They had money that they were supposed to release to me, and I guess I’m not going to get it now. Bills that I thought were going to be taken care of,” Tehas said.

Tehas said she got a text from the school the day before, encouraging her to enroll in more classes.

“They had to know they were closing. They’ve had to have known,” Tehas said.

Diane Worthington, a spokeswoman for Brightwood’s parent company, Education Corporation of America, said late Wednesday that students at all of their more than 75 campuses “will be able to complete their current term which ends this Friday.”

“We will work with students to ensure access to their transcripts so they can complete their studies at another school,” said Worthington in an emailed statement. “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 news outlet Inside Higher Ed, the company is closing all of its campuses because the U.S. Department of Education restricted it from accessing federal student aid after losing accreditation. The company has been struggling financially for several years.

Brightwood was previously known as Kaplan College before being purchased by ECA in 2015.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org, on Instagram at camille.m.phillips and on Twitter at @cmpcamille. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.