GREENSBORO — The local campus of Virginia College closed Wednesday as its struggling parent company announced that it will shut down all of the schools this month.
Inside Higher Education, a website that covers colleges and universities, reported that Education Corporation of America is closing 75 colleges nationwide. The announcement came a day after the for-profit chain learned that its accreditation would be suspended.
ECA operates schools under the names Virginia College, Brightwood College, Culinard, Ecotech Institute and Golf Academy of America. It has about 20,000 students enrolled in certificate programs in culinary arts, health care, cosmetology, business, computer networking and other career-focused offerings.
As of fall 2017, according to the most recently available federal data, the local campus had about 400 students and 50 full- and part-time instructors.
ECA’s only other North Carolina operation is a Brightwood College location in Charlotte.
WFMY-Channel 2 reported on its website that teachers and other employees were removing their belongings from the building Wednesday afternoon. No one answered the phone at the school late Wednesday. Multiple media outlets are reporting the closing of other Virginia College campuses across the country.
ECA said on its website that it plans to discontinue operations this month and would tell students by Dec. 17 how they can get their transcripts and where they might transfer.
Wednesday’s closure comes after years of challenges for the privately held company.
Inside Higher Education noted that enrollment and revenue have been declining for years even after the company bought 38 campuses of Kaplan College, another for-profit operator, in 2015.
In September, ECA’s accreditor expressed concerns about a number of areas, including curriculum and management. The company closed about a third of its schools that same month.
The company reported in October that it had nearly $47 million in unsecured debt and was having trouble paying its creditors and the rent for some of its campuses.
In a letter dated Tuesday notifying ECA that its accreditation would be suspended, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools said it had concerns about numerous other areas, including student progress and outcomes, staff turnover and student satisfaction.
Stu Reed, the company’s president and CEO, told students in an email Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Education put new financial restrictions on the school and that ACICS intended to withdraw accreditation. Students cannot use federal Pell Grants or federal student loans to attend a college that’s not accredited.
“The uncertainty of these requirements resulted in an inability to acquire additional capital to operate our schools,” Reid wrote. “It is with extreme regret that this series of recent circumstances has forced us to discontinue the operations of our schools.”
The U.S. Department of Education criticized the company’s decision to close quickly and said the chain could do more to help students finish studies or find other schools before closing.
Inside Higher Education reported that students will be able to finish their current course modules over the next two weeks. A few employees will remain at each campus to help students get transcripts and other documents.