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Brightwood College Closure: How Students Can Find Help

The San Pedro campus of Brightwood College San Antonio locked its doors on Dec. 5, 2018, the day its parent company announced it was closing.
Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
The San Pedro campus of Brightwood College San Antonio locked its doors on Dec. 5, the day its parent company announced it was closing.

Government agencies and higher education institutions are compiling resources to help students who were enrolled at Brightwood College finish their education.

Education Corporation of America, Brightwood’s parent company, abruptly announced last week that all of its campuses were closing at the end of the current term. To help students navigate their options, here are some answers to common questions.

The for-profit chains owned by Education Corporation of America had more than 70 campuses nationwide, including two in San Antonio. Its closure leaves thousands of students searching for a way to finish their education.

Can I get my money back?

When a school closes, students with federal financial aid may be able to get their loans forgiven. They may also be able to get a reset of their eligibility for Pell grants and GI Bill benefits.

But in order to qualify, they can’t transfer to a similar program in another school. That leaves students with a decision to make: complete their certificate or cancel their debt.

Students can log on to My Federal Student Aid to find out how much they owe and see how close they are to maxing out their eligibility for Pell grants and subsidized loans.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is directing veterans to theTexas Veterans Commission for details on restoring their GI benefits.

Will my credits transfer?

It’s unclear whether ECA will make formal arrangements with other institutions to help students finish their programs.

Liz Hill, the press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, said in a statement the sudden announcement was “highly disappointing and not best for its students.”

“Instead of taking the next few months to close in an orderly fashion, ECA took the easy way out and left 19,000 students scrambling to find a way to finish the education program they started,” Hill said.

However, both the state and federal education departments recommend contacting colleges directly to confirm whether or not classes will transfer.

The Alamo Colleges District isconsidering students on an individual basis.

Adelina Silva, vice chancellor for student success for the community college system, said the best way for a student to find out what courses will transfer is to come in and talk to an advisor.

“We just need to look at it because we can’t just make a blanket statement,” Silva said. “We will look (at course descriptions) to see what is available — what equals a course that we have.”

Silva says the Alamo Colleges will accept classes from Brightwood even though it recently lost accreditation. Students can also get credit for courses by taking tests to demonstrate competency.

“We’ve had a little bit of experience” helping displaced students, said Silva, pointing to the closures of ITT Tech and Career Point in 2016.

How do I access my transcripts?

ECA is directing students to check back next week for information on accessing transcripts.

David Gardner, deputy commissioner at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, said students will also be able to find their transcripts at the board’s transcript repository.

“Our staff do monitor institutions in Texas, and they had some concerns before we heard this announcement and had asked for transcripts,” Gardner said. “Of course, those who were enrolled this semester, hopefully, they will have a complete transcript in the near future.”

Former Brightwood students can find a list of answers to other questions about school closures by going to the websites of the U.S. Department of Education, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Alamo Colleges District.

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.