Abrupt For-Profit Closures Surprise Regulators

By Kelly Field

Tracy DeLorey was only three months away from graduation in January when she learned, via Facebook, that her college, American Career Institute, had closed. The news, she said, “was a kick in the face.”

“I wasted a year and a half,” said Ms. DeLorey, a single mother of three who works at the commissary at Hanscom Air Force Base, in Massachusetts. More than 2,200 students and 200 employees in Massachusetts and Maryland were displaced by ACI’s closure.

Seven months later, many former students are still awaiting refunds on loans they took out to pay for their programs. Others have transferred to nearby colleges but find themselves spending more, or taking longer to complete their programs.

The abrupt closure of ACI, a for-profit institution that offered certificate programs in medical and dental fields, information technology, and digital media, came just over a week after Academic Enterprises Inc., the parent company of Sawyer Schools and Butler Business School, announced that it was shutting down campuses in Connecticut and Rhode Island that served more than 650 students.

In both cases, regulators and accreditors were as surprised as the students. They said they hadn’t received any complaints from students about the colleges, and saw no red flags in their annual audits.

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