WASHINGTON – Many local students and their families were left in the lurch after a for-profit school suddenly went belly-up this week.
A letter dated on Jan. 9 from the American Career Institute (ACI) told students that all of the school’s campuses will close on Jan. 9 – including its locations in Columbia, Silver Spring and Baltimore – due to money problems.
“We’re kind of devastated,” Sally Liska says.
Liska’s son, Michael, was set to graduate in August after completing a two-year digital media program.
“We were looking forward to a new career for him.”
Instead, she and others are trying to figure out what to do about student loans. Liska says tuition has come close to $25,000. About $2,500 of that came out-of- pocket, with the rest hanging in the balance as debt.
The letter from ACI says there is a process for federal student loan forgiveness, given the circumstances. The school also promises to help place students in other institutions to finish their studies.
“ACI is working diligently with schools in Maryland to develop teach-out agreements,” the letter sent to all ACI students says. “Generally, a teach-out agreement would allow current ACI students to complete their programs at another school which offers a similar educational program.”
However, the help offered comes as small consolation to Liska, who is not happy with how the situation has been handled.
“Not to have any warning that this is happening, what they’ve done is truly horrible,” she says.
ACI also has locations in Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Attorney General is investigating the school following the sudden closure.
After the letter was sent, the school’s website was taken down. Before the closing, the website touted the school’s ability to give students real- world experience, as well as its approval by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
The letter sent to students also reports that student records will be kept under the control of the Maryland Higher Education Commission.