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For former Corinthian students, uncertainty looms

Corinthian operates colleges and training programs under the names Everest College, Heald, WyoTech, and QuickStart Intelligence.
Corinthian operates colleges and training programs under the names Everest College, Heald, WyoTech, and QuickStart Intelligence.
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Corinthian has closed its remaining campuses in California. We spoke to a student affected by the closing.

On Sunday, Everest College student Heather Arellanes and 10,000 of her classmates received an email that would change their lives: Corinthian, parent company of Everest, WyoTech and Heald Colleges, announced that they would be closing their remaining 28 campuses. Now, months in to her studies and thousands in debt, Arellanes is searching for answers.

“I received an email [at] nine o’clock in the morning,” Arellanes tells Take Two. “I contacted my teacher right after I received it to see if it was our school, all schools, or what was going on. … They probably sent out a phone call around three to tell us our school was being shut down.”  

Arellanes was studying to become a medical assistant at Everest’s Anaheim campus. She was just two months away from finishing the program. Her last final of the term was scheduled for today. Instead, she and a group of classmates met at the school to find out if all their time and money was for nothing.

Molly Hensley-Clancy reports on the business of education for BuzzFeed and published an in-depth investigation of Corinthian in November of 2014. She says the closure was a long time coming. “There have been a bunch of lawsuits from the state’s attorney general and from the Department of Justice doing an investigation, basically alleging that Corinthian schools were misleading students about their prospects of getting a job,” Hensley-Clancy tells Take Two. “Last July, the Department of Education made this move to cut off Corinthians access to federal money, and this created this spiral where Corinthian was compelled to sell off all of its schools.” California institutions didn’t sell, because the state was unwilling to release buyers from legal liability.

The education behemoth earned over $10 billion dollars in the past decade. “A lot of that 10-billion dollars comes from taxpayer money,” Hensley-Clancy explained. “They [had] access to, basically, an unlimited stream of taxpayer money that students would pay for their school using Pell Grants, subsidized loans, unsubsidized loans … and were very good about getting new students to sign up.” Hensley-Clancy notes that while she conducted her investigation, she discovered many of the students weren’t even aware that they had taken out loans until she looked over their documents personally.

Former Corinthian student Heather Arellanes says she’s now close to $17,000 in debt after 8 months of classes. Arellanes signed a lease closer to campus and would even take off work to attend classes. In a meeting with the Anaheim campus president today, she was informed that she had two options: accept a refund, or transfer course credits to a college of Corinthians choosing. She plans to attend another meeting on campus tomorrow.

“My mother always warned me, ‘don’t go to a trade school. Go to a community college,’" Arellanes said. “Well, I didn’t listen to her, I went to a trade school and this trade school had a lot of shady things.”

Press the play button above to hear more about the campus closure and the challenges now faced by the students who went there.