On Tuesday, just days after learning that their school had closed for good, students at Spokane Valley’s Alpine College hoped to get some answers.
Was their tuition money gone for good?
Would they be able to transfer somewhere else?
And just how long did the school’s owner know he would be locking the doors of Alpine College forever?
But after representatives of the Washington Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board left for the day, after a series of meetings to hopefully answer some of those queries, students said their future is still frustratingly vague.
“There was not a lot they could tell us,” said Brandey Colglazier, a graduate of East Valley High School and mother who was hoping to graduate with a medical assistant degree in November. “They said they’re working with different schools to see if we can transfer.”
Colglazier and the 160 or so other students enrolled at Alpine College, located east of Argonne Road at 10020 E. Knox Avenue in the International Gateway Corporate Industrial Park, have been greeted since Saturday with a sign on the door that states the school is “permanently closed” and an apology for the “inconvenience.”
One of Colglazier’s classmates made a daily round-trip from St. Maries, Idaho, since her classes began last September. She fears she’s wasted time she could have spent with her children.
“We’re full-time moms,” Colglazier said. “A lot of us are.”
With the state agency that licensed Alpine College aware of the situation, some of the initial anger has now given way to restlessness in wanting to know what comes next. While there was little new information given, there’s some hope from the students that they will be able to continue their education somewhere new.
More adrift are the staff members who were just as shocked to learn they were out of work. Some had been hired as recently as last week, when new classes began and tuition had been paid to the for-profit college.
“It’s about the owner, not the staff members,” Colglazier said. “They’re just as much victims as we are.”
After news was released over the weekend that the school was closed, it was learned that Alpine College had been alleged to have been behind in taxes and had other debts. The school’s owner, Kevin J. Williams, had also been barred in 2007from practicing as a certified public accountant for two years.
The school had to renew its license annually with the state Workforce board, and representatives have called the closure “highly unusual.” Alpine College is one of 250 private career schools that must submit annual detailed descriptions of programs, credit reports and other information each year.
While Alpine College is done, other for-profit colleges in Spokane Valley are flourishing. Recently the University of Phoenix, for example, announced it has expanded its Student Resource Center on Mission Avenue west of Argonne, which allows students a place to study, use computers, and meet with other students and staff. With the expansion comes 21 new staff members.
Still, controversy dogs the multibillion for-profit college industry. USA Today published a story last year that showed a government inquiry of 15 for-profit colleges found four cases where campus officials encouraged applicants to commit fraud when seeking loans and grants. All of the colleges surveyed were shown to have examples of school officials misrepresenting their programs.
Alpine students learned Tuesday that there is a trust fund that can offer students reimbursement for degrees not received, but they would have to apply to receive any compensation.
Colglazier said she’s not interested in money. She wants a degree and a job.
“That’s what I came to this school for,” she said.