UPDATE | Rebuilding after Virginia College closes its doors

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Saturday, February 2, 2019
News 12 at 6

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Teachers and students are left looking for answers, jobs and college credit after Virginia College lost its accreditation.

But still, two months after the school closed, students and teachers are rebuilding.

"A sandwich, a fruit snack, a tooth brush, some tooth paste, hand sanitizer."

Item by item Isaac Ricks fills up brown paper bags to distribute to the homeless.

"Someone is out there that they're hoping for a little bit of love a little bit of care," Isaac Rick said. "Someone to care."

He knows because it was him just two months ago. He was a teacher at Virginia College.

"We got called into the hallway literally 5 minutes before our 11:30 a.m. courses were supposed to start and were told that the school was closed down indefinitely."

Teachers and students had to pack up and leave.

"I was very sad. Kind of lost. I didn't have any answers. I felt defeated. I was angry."

Many without a job and many more without a degree.

"I have students who, luckily, some of the schools here in Augusta were able to transfer credits and some of them had to start over," Ricks said. "It's kind of been up and down."

He says the past two months have been an eye-opener.

"Just the little bit of taste of being in need because I was like, I don't have an income. What do I do?"

One that helped him discover what's important.

"It's truly a testament of what do you do with what you have and how you take the next step after you encounter something like that."

He picked up the pieces and rebuilt. He started his own catering company, It's Ricks Catering. Once a month, he cooks for those who need some extra help.

Students that were enrolled in classes on or after August 20th, 2018, may be eligible for a closed student loan discharge. This means you may not need to pay your federal student loans because the school closed.

To apply for a closed school loan discharge, you can complete and return the closed school loan discharge application at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/closed-school-loan-discharge-form.pdf.

You must send your Closed School Loan Discharge Application to your federal student loan servicer. To find out who your
loan servicer is, log in to “My Federal Student Aid” at StudentAid.gov/login or call 1-800-433-3243.

Students are able to request their transcripts from GNPEC. You may request a copy of a transcript at https://gnpec.georgia.gov/webform/student-transcript-request.

For more information on the rest of your options, click the following link.

Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018
News 12 at 11

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Virginia College faculty and staff said they knew the school was under scrutiny, but never expected to walk into work on Wednesday and be told to go home.

On a chilly Thursday afternoon, fall leaves blew in the wind at Virginia College, signalling a change in season. Not just for students, but staff, too.

"That's my passion," said Isaac Ricks, a former teacher at Virginia College. "It was just snatched away from me,"

Isaac Ricks worked at Virginia College for about a year and a half. He said the school has been under the microscope by accreditors for some time, but staff were assured everything was going to be okay.

Ricks said staff and faculty had a meeting recently.

"We were feeling really empowered, we were feeling really good. Like this is solid," said Ricks. "No warning, absolutely no notion that anything was happening,"

On Wednesday, Ricks and other employees say they got an email from Education Corporation of America, the school's parent company, confirming what he already knew.

"When it comes to faculty and staff, what do we do?" said Ricks.

News 12 obtained screenshots of the email faculty and staff received. In it, the school's CEO Stu Reed said in part: "This is not the outcome we envisioned, and is one we recognize will have a dramatic effect on our employees..."

And with no idea when or where he'll get his next paycheck, Ricks said he already knows that's true.

"It only just dawned on me today that i'm unemployed," said Ricks. "Because all i could think of was my students,"

And now his own future, too. Insurance ends on Friday, and pay ended on Wednesday.

"You don't wanna face that something that you worked so hard for and that you put your all into," said Ricks. "You've worked with these students that aren't just students. They become apart of you,"

With the holidays just around the corner, employees say this couldn't have happened at a worse time. The letter they received says pay ended on Wednesday and insurance coverage ends on Friday, and there is no available severance.

6:00 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- “All the workers that are here are actually making it very easy for us to get our transcripts so that way we continue to move forward with our careers."

Some students, still processing the news but, making plans.

"We came to get our credits because we start at Georgia Institute of cosmetology Monday."

Others in limbo and saying some tough goodbyes.

"I don't know what's going to happen next as far as my loans, as far as me going to another cosmetology school and will they accept my credits, I really don't know what's going on next,” says Dominique Malone, a Cosmetology student.

Employees are in the same boat. Latasha Holmes, an Admission Representative says she angry.

"She walks in and she says ‘hey guys, pack your stuff up you no longer have a job’. I've been here for two years, I'm a single mother of three and I have nothing. Insurance ends on Friday."

Linda Dixon is the cosmetology program director.

“ I got fired on my day off,” she says.

She says the school shutting down is a tough pill to swallow. Virginia College's accreditation has been in rough water for the last year.
"We knew there were a lot of things going on that we had to fix, and we'd fix something and then something else will come up and then we would fix that so it has been very uncomfortable for a long time,” Dixon says.

Virginia college's lower enrollment affected them financially. In October the company admitted to owing almost 47 million dollars. Dixon says the Augusta campus was good at retaining their students but ultimately it didn't save them.

"When you are connected to the beast you know and it's one unit and when something happens to one, it still affects all."

A Virginia College representative says active students will be able to keep their credits but need to talk to the Department of Education about loan forgiveness. As for prospective students, money, or graduates degrees still counting she couldn’t answer that.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

6:00 p.m.

News 12 at 6/NBC at 7
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Teachers are holding boxes of their things and walking out the door for the last time. Three weeks before Christmas, Virginia College in Augusta shuts its doors, leaving faculty without jobs and students unsure of their future.

News 12 learned that Virginia College has lost their accreditation. All schools owned by Virginia College will be shut down.

News 12 talked to one faculty member who says they were told they'd be ok and then this happened.

Just like any other day employees came to work and students' to class.

"The teacher comes into the classroom and when she comes into the classroom she was like everybody just pack their stuff and just go," said Kye Petersen, a cosmetology student.

She told them to leave and wait for an email with no explanation.

Monica Roberson works in the admissions department at Virginia College and says her president took all the staff aside.

"She's like, the whole school is closing right now, this moment, this minute and we had to pack our things and leave," said Roberson.

Roberson says everyone was in tears.

"It's right before Christmas time so nobody really knows what it is that they're going to do without their job,” said Roberson as she cried.

17 of Virginia College's 28 sites in multiple states are closing their doors.

"What are we supposed to do now?” said Petersen. “People who got student loans, people who are supposed to graduate next week, or the next couple of months like what are we supposed to do now."

"I want my money,” said Andrickus Hunt, a cosmetology student. I need these loans to transfer somewhere else because I'm not a wealthy child here."

Another big concern is credits.

According to this letter from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges, Virginia College has experienced financial difficulties that have resulted in lawsuits.

"We probably can't even finish up what we started at other schools,” said Sh'kera Dennis, a medical assistant student. We might have to start all back over and I don't want to do that."

The accrediting council says they will give transfer agreements to students still enrolled after December, as long as Virginia College shows proof.

As far as gaining that accreditation back, the council says this college is unlikely to continue operating because of its financial status.

2:20 p.m.

(WRDW/WAGT) -- AUGUSTA, Ga. News 12 is getting reports of Virginia College located on Wylds Road in Augusta is shutting down.

A news photographer on the scene spoke with at least two people who say employees were called into a meeting this morning and told the College was being closed. Workers were reportedly told to go home and that they will not be receiving further paychecks. People we spoke to also say they were told this is occurring at locations in other states.

Students say they received no warning and do not understand what is happening.

We are working to confirm these reports with College officials.

According to its website, Virginia College offers a variety of programs, resulting in both certificates and associate’s degrees in fields including:
Business Administration Program Information; Cosmetology Program Information; and Health and Medical.

This is a developing story.