Dozens of for-profit college campuses across the nation have closed abruptly after their parent company lost its accreditation and funding.
USA Today reports that the schools are owned by Education Corp. of America (ECA), which is based in Birmingham, Ala., and runs more than 75 campuses across the United States. Its campuses operate under a variety of names, several of which offer "career-focused" diploma and associate's degree programs.
A statement on ECA's student information page announced the December 2018 closure of its campuses, including those operating as Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America and Virginia College.
The closures came after the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools suspended ECA'S accreditation on Tuesday.
The company is one of the nation's largest for-profit colleges and serves at least 20,000 students.
The Center for Responsible Lending called ECA's closure long overdue.
ECA "has a long record of providing substandard education at exorbitant prices," says Whitney Barkley-Denney, the center's senior policy counsel. "Students who were lured to an ECA campus should have their loans discharged as they decide their next education path—being straddled with crippling student loan debt after their college failed them shouldn’t be a burden that they have to carry.”
The loss of accreditation was a fatal blow for ECA. In October, the company reported nearly $50 million in debt to unsecured creditors, prompting ECA to seek legal remedies before landlords evicted it from its locations.
The company previously announced that some locations would close after students completed classes.
A letter addressed students by Stu Reed, ECA's president and CEO, cites changing Department of Education requirements during the company's restructuring as a challenge that the company faced.
If a school closes, students with loans can ask the U.S. Department of Education to cancel those loans, according to Project on Predatory Student Lending Director Toby Merrill.