No student ever thinks that after dedicating countless hours to studying and homework and after spending large amounts of money toward books and school supplies, they would receive news of their school closing, but in late April 2015 students across California attending the campuses of Heald College faced this harsh reality.
Heald College, a private, for-profit school, closed its doors last spring after its parent company Corinthian Colleges allegedly supplied the public with misrepresenting statistics about the job placement of students after graduation and used deceptive recruitment techniques to increase enrollment.
The school’s closing left approximately 16,000 students wondering about their next move.
Former Heald student Syuzi Whitman, who was one month away from graduating with her associate degree in medical administration, received news of the college closing during a Sunday family dinner.
“I got a text from my friend asking me if I had heard about the closing and to check my email,” said Whitman. “The email said that unfortunately the students wouldn’t be able to continue their education at the college because they were shutting down.”
According to Whitman, the email went on to say that Heald would hold a meeting the following week so that students could pick up their transcripts and see what options would be available to them.
“It took two days before the news finally sank in,” said Whitman. “At first I thought there was some kind of hope – possible help from the government – but as the days passed I knew it was done and I cried.”
Tamara Kaser, a former Heald student with hopes of obtaining an associate degree in business, found out about the school’s closing through a letter sent out by Heald.
“I was shocked,” said Kaser about her reaction to the news of Heald’s closing. “I kept asking if everything was okay but I never received an answer … and then I got a letter.”
Heald students were given three options after the college closed: start all over, apply for a closed school loan discharge, that would free them from repaying the debt or transfer credits to another school to continue his or her education in a similar program. However, if students chose the third option they were obligated to pay back the entirety of the loan.
The Heald campuses in the Sacramento area reached out to local colleges to help their former students see the various options that were available to them if they chose to transfer their credits or start fresh.
According to Scott Crow, American River College’s public information officer, ARC representatives went out to the campuses’ events to offer students a new home.
Whitman and Kaser both chose to apply to ARC to continue their education.
Whitman’s original program of study, however, is not offered at ARC, so she had to change her major to business adminstration.
“I couldn’t sit around and try to place the blame on someone … I had to move on,” said Whitman about why she chose to restart her college career. “I told myself that I needed to get an education because that’s what sticks with you, that’s what motivates you to get up and start all over.”
Kaser said the transition has been a difficult one due to financial aid and trying to find the courses that will allow her to obtain her degree.
“Because I’m still waiting on my financial aid I’m two weeks behind in my classes,” said Kaser. “I feel like I’m being set up for failure.”
Kaser is working closely with a counselor to get on the right track but according to her, keeping on top of her school work isn’t easy.
“I’m working closely with my teachers and powering through…staying up long hours of the night just trying to maintain,” said Kaser.
Although both Kaser and Whitman admit that Heald’s sudden closure radically altered their plans their advice to students going through the same situation as them is to stay strong and positive.
“Try to keep smiling,” said Kaser. “There will be bumps in the road but you’ll get through it … just have a goal.”
Added Whitman: “Just do it … you have to be the one to motivate yourself to keep going and make your dreams come true …. you have to be strong.”