EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — UPDATE
The Connecticut State Office of Higher Education confirmed Wednesday evening that all three Stone Academy locations would close immediately.
The frustration and fear are palpable for students at Stone Academy. They’re demanding answers following the sudden announcement that the for-profit school will close on the heels of several non-compliance violations.
845 students are enrolled across Stone Academy’s three Connecticut campuses. Dozens of those students are just months away from graduating. Now, their education, careers and money are all in limbo.
Emotions boiled over Wednesday as the state nursing board of examiners held a virtual meeting to give Stone Academy students guidance on the next steps. Several frustrated students shouted at organizers after fielding hours of questions. There were few answers.
“We're demanding answers,” said Sashya Cancel, a Stoney Academy nursing student.
Cancel just quit her job to focus on her last five months of school. She’s set to take an exit exam in 31 days.
“I’m feeling very defeated. Overwhelmed, disappointed and disgusted,” she said.
Stone Academy made the decision to close, rather than face an audit after state regulators discovered the school’s graduation rate was below 80%. They also found 20% of their nursing teachers weren’t qualified and that the school was falsifying clinical experience, student attendance and faculty evaluation records.
Now students want to know what happens to their credits, clinical hours and money.
“What about our time, effort, and hard work that we did to complete this?” asked nursing student Patricia Parker
“To have no guidance from a school that you sign up with. It’s gut-wrenching. You feel alone,” added nursing student Justin Cullipher.
The State Office of Higher Education told FOX61 they sympathize. “It’s heartbreaking,” remarked Tim Larson, the Executive Director of the Office of Higher Education.
They are working as fast as possible to get answers.
“We're going to do our level best to make sure that every student is compensated. Whether that’s a refund of money, a discharge of federal loan or getting them placed in an appropriate academy or school that will accept their transcripts,” explained Larson.
To better get a handle on students' individual situations, the state office of higher ed is asking all students to take a survey.
The state said they don’t have confidence that Stone Academy can provide quality instruction. FOX61 discovered this isn’t the first time Stone Academy has been in hot water.
Last year they were forced to pay more than $1 million to resolve allegations that they made direct student loan payments on behalf of more than 150 students to prevent their school’s loan default rate from getting too high.
According to a report by the National Clearinghouse Research Center, for-profit colleges are the most likely to abruptly close.
Student Justin Cullipher had a parting message for his fellow future nurses.
“Don’t give up. Find another path. There are good schools out there. I got to work alongside a lot of great students who are going to make amazing nurses one day. I really hope they don’t let the bad decisions of certain business people pave their path.”
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