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December 06, 2018

Senator Doug Jones Calls on Birmingham-based For-Profit Corporation CEO to Assist Students After Abrupt Nationwide Closure Announced

In a letter today, Jones urged more help for students who have invested thousands of dollars in the now-defunct schools

Washington, DC – In response to news that Education Corporation of America (ECA) would be abruptly closing its campuses in Alabama and across the country, U.S. Senator Doug Jones wrote to CEO Stu Reed today calling for ECA to help students navigate their options and understand the resources available to them. ECA represents Brightwood Career Institute, Brightwood College, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America, and Virginia College throughout the country. Based in Birmingham, ECA operates for-profit Virginia College campuses in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery and serves more than 3,800 Alabama students. Of those students, 670 are using GI Bill benefits.

The closures were announced yesterday and are effective this Friday. According to ECA’s website, information for students is currently not expected to be available until on or around December 17, which could delay students from being able to transfer to another institution in time for the spring semester.

In his letter, Jones urged Reed to speed up outreach and assistance to students, writing, “After abruptly closing the doors, your decision to make students and families wait nearly two weeks to receive any information about their next steps is simply unacceptable. You have a responsibility to these students, including our veterans and service members, to ensure they have all of the tools and information they need to move forward, including the choice between receiving a discharge of their federal student loans or transferring to a similar program if they can find an institution willing to accept their credits.”

ECA operates more than 70 campuses nationwide and serves more than 20,000 students, including 4,000 who are veterans or military service members.

Full text of Senator Jones’ letter is below.

December 6, 2018

Mr. Stu Reed

Chief Executive Officer

Education Corporation of America

3660 Grandview Parkway, Suite 300

Birmingham, AL 35243

Dear Mr. Reed:

I am writing on behalf of the students in Alabama and across the country who are enrolled in one of Education Corporation of America’s colleges, including Brightwood Career Institute, Brightwood College, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America, and Virginia College. When the news broke yesterday regarding your decision to abruptly close these colleges, I was immediately concerned about the futures of 20,000 students enrolled nationwide in 20 states, including 4,000 veterans and military service members using the G.I. Bill.

In Alabama, Education Corporation of America’s Virginia College campuses will close in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery, leaving a combined total of more than 3,800 students in my state, including 670 student veterans who have been using the G.I. Bill benefits they have earned, left scrambling to figure out their educational future. According to your company’s website, there will be information for students regarding transcript retrieval, transfer, and contact information that you “expect to start loading” on or around December 17, 2018.

After abruptly closing the doors, your decision to make students and families wait nearly two weeks to receive any information about their next steps is simply unacceptable.

You have a responsibility to these students, including our veterans and service members, to ensure they have all of the tools and information they need to move forward, including the choice between receiving a discharge of their federal student loans or transferring to a similar program if they can find an institution willing to accept their credits. Veteran students also need to understand the impact of the closure on their G.I. Bill benefit eligibility. I am deeply troubled by reports that many Education Corporation of America colleges have not been informing students of their right to seek a “closed school discharge” of their federal loan as is required by federal law under the 2016 “borrower defense” rule. Additionally, students who are encouraged to transfer should understand the limitations of fully transferring credits, and the impact on their eligibility for a loan discharge.

I urge you to do all you can to inform these students of their options. They have invested thousands of dollars into your institution and could potentially lose everything.


Sincerely,

Doug Jones

U.S. Senator

 

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