28 Colleges Just Shut Down, Now What?

Higher education just took another major blow. On Sunday, Corinthian Colleges shut down 28 of its for-profit schools effective immediately, leaving 16,000 students suddenly without a school, including some just weeks away from graduation. Some students in California told The Sacramento Bee they received no notice from the school, learning about the closures through social media.

Closed campuses include its 13 remaining Everest and WyoTech campuses in California; Everest College Phoenix and Everest Online Tempe in Arizona; the Everest Institute in New York; and Heald College, which has 10 locations in California, one in Hawaii, and one in Oregon. In a statement, the Santa Ana, California, company said it was working with other institutions to place and find education opportunities for its students. Chief Executive Officer Jack Massimino said in a statement Corinthian attempted to provide a quality education for students, but the "current regulatory environment" prevented the company from selling its remaining campuses and allowing students to continue their education.

Colleges like ours fill an important role in the broader education system and address a critical need that remains largely unmet by community colleges and other public sector schools. Overall, our schools did a good job for the students they served. We made every effort to address regulators' concerns in good faith. Neither our Board of Directors, our management, our faculty, nor our students believe these schools deserved to be forced to close.

The shutterings came after Corinthian failed to sell off its remaining campuses in response to a hefty fine imposed by the federal government. The Department of Education fined Corinthian $30 million earlier this month for deceptive marketing practices, which included inflating its job placement stats to boost enrollment. The government found that Corinthian paid temp work firms to hire students after graduation and counted students who were already employed before registering as success job stories.

For-profits were lauded as a new frontier for adult learners late to the education game to find employment, but critics have long questioned their cash cow operations, whose students are often left racked with debt and without jobs. Federal data shows that for-profit students account for just 12 percent of college enrollment but hold 44 percent of the country's student debt.

Corinthian is not alone in its troubles. The University of Phoenix, the country's largest for-profit university, announced last month it lost a few hundred thousand students in the past five years as competition from other institutions has increased. In March, women's liberal arts school Sweet Briar College said it would close due to financial difficulties.

Higher education is going through a time of turmoil or reconstruction depending on who you ask. Student loan debt in the United States is at an all-time high at more than $1 trillion. Online curricula have made degrees more accessible, but how those degrees convert into well-paying jobs has yet to be seen. While the solution to higher education is even more complex than the problem itself, abrupt shutdowns leave no one a winner — not the school, the student, or frankly, the economy. Let students know their education and their money are in real jeopardy before you lock the gates. Rallies are reportedly planned for campuses in Roseville and Salida, California, Monday to protest the closings.

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