College System with Pharmacy Technician Program Abruptly Closes

Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Students in the pharmacy technician program at Heald College, which has several campuses across the country, will be forced to finish their studies elsewhere, since the college's parent company announced it would be closing its 28 ground campuses effective April 27, 2015.

Students in the pharmacy technician program at Heald College, which has several campuses across the country, will be forced to finish their studies elsewhere, since the college’s parent company announced it would be closing its 28 ground campuses effective April 27, 2015.

Corinthian Colleges, which owns Heald College, has 10 locations in California, 1 in Hawaii, and 1 in Oregon. Around 16,000 students at Corinthian Colleges’ schools will be displaced.

In a statement, Corinthian said it had signed an operating agreement with the US Department of Education (DOE) in July 2014 and had been working on the sale or “wind-down” of all of its schools.

Due to accusations that the school had falsified graduates’ job placement rates, the DOE had put a hold on Corinthian’s access to student loan funds, USA Today reported.

A press release from the DOE dated April 14, 2015, said the department was fining Corinthian Colleges $30 million for misrepresentation of job placement rates. The press release, which suggested Corinthian was a “predatory, for-profit” college company, found 947 cases of misstated placement rates.

“Instead of providing clear and accurate information to help students choose which college to attend, Corinthian violated students’ and taxpayers’ trust,” Under Secretary Mitchell said in the press release. “Their substantial misrepresentations evidence a blatant disregard not just for professional standards, but for students’ futures. This is unacceptable, and we are holding them accountable.”

The DOE found fault specifically in the Heald College system. For example, the department accused it of paying temp agencies to hire its graduates for temporary jobs. Some of the temporary jobs, which may have been as short as 2 days in duration, involved menial tasks like moving computers. The DOE said the college called these graduates “placed in field.”

In other cases, Heald counted some students as “placed in field” even before they graduated. Investigations showed some of these students worked jobs that were not related to their field of study.

USA Today reported Corinthian Colleges had managed to sell 56 Everest and WyoTech campuses to a company called Zenith Education Group, but it had not been able to successfully sell Heald College because of blocks by federal and state regulators.

In addition, USA Today reported California Attorney General Kamala Harris sued Corinthian for alleged false advertising, predatory marketing, and securities fraud.

In its statement, Corinthian Colleges called its graduation rate and job placement rate “historic.” It also said it had no other choice but to close its schools.

”We believe that we have attempted to do everything within our power to provide a quality education and an opportunity for a better future for our students,” Corinthian CEO Jack Massimino said in a school statement.” Unfortunately, the current regulatory environment would not allow us to complete a transaction with several interested parties that would have allowed for a seamless transition for our students.

Students were informed that their diplomas were not available but they could obtain a transcript with their degree and planned graduation date. An FAQ section on the university system’s website advised students they should not feel the need to remove the reference to the school’s name on their resumes.

“We are enormously proud of you, and you should be proud of your education,” the answer read.

Students in the pharmacy technician program were asked to collect their belongings and transcript and learn more about how to continue their education in a meeting on April 29, 2015.

According to KOIN 6 News, a student named Traci Stewart had been taking classes at Heald’s Portland, Oregon, campus since 2010. She decided to pursue her dream of becoming a pharmacy technician after obtaining her associates degree in medical billing and coding.

“I am scared and nervous, hoping that it won’t affect my externship at all because I really want to get out there and get working as soon as I can,” Stewart told KOIN 6 News. “I would hate to lose it now when I’m so close.”

Students were offered information sheets that included some regulatory agencies they could reach out to for “guidance on how to continue your education.” One of the 5 agencies listed was the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

“We hope we have helped you on your road to a better and brighter future,” Massimino said in a statement to students. “We are disappointed that we could not accompany you for the entire journey.”