The troubled for-profit education company Corinthian Colleges Inc. and the Education Department reached an agreement late Thursday that has 85 of the company's 100-plus campuses going up for sale, and 12 others closing.
Corinthian owns Everest College, Heald College and WyoTech schools. It serves about 72,000 students in 26 states and Ontario, Canada, and receives about $1.4 billion in federal financial student aid annually. The highest concentrations of students are in California, Florida and Texas. Students generally receive career training in areas such as auto mechanics or healthcare.
The news that Kansas City's Everest College could be affected by the decision came as a surprise to many local students.
"I honestly did not know anything about it. They did not tell us if any campuses were closing or anything. So this is a great shock to me," said Jackie Juarez.
Juarez is a single mom who decided to study at Everest after seeing the appeal from their advertisements.
"Personally I would recommend it to anybody. It helped me get through one of the hardest chapters in my life and now I'm almost done. It's amazing," she said.
Jack Massimino, Corinthian's chairman and chief officer, praised the agreement in a statement.
"This agreement allows our students to continue their education and helps minimize the personal and financial issues that affect our 12,000 employees and their families," Massimino said. "It also provides a blueprint for allowing most of our campuses to continue serving their students and communities under new ownership."
The company declined to identify the schools that will close.
Ted Mitchell, the undersecretary at the Education Department, said the agreement will "protect students' futures and fulfill the department's responsibilities to taxpayers moving forward."
"Ensuring that Corinthian students are served well remains our first and most important priority, and we will continue to work with Corinthian officials and the independent monitor on behalf of the best interests of students and taxpayers," Mitchell said.
The department put Santa Ana, California-based Corinthian on heightened financial monitoring last month with a 21-day waiting period for federal funds. That came after Corinthian failed to provide adequate paperwork and comply with the department's requests to address concerns about the company's practices. The department said the concerns included allegations of falsifying job placement data used in marketing claims to prospective students and allegations of altered grades and attendance.
The U.S. Department of Education and several state governments also accused the company of making false advertising claims.
Juarez was shocked to hear about the accusations.
"They said they would help me find employment, that career services would always be there to help," she said.
She said the college told her it will stay open long enough for her to finish her degree.
"I would love to keep it open," Juarez said.
The sides earlier reached an initial agreement that allowed the company to obtain an immediate $16 million in federal student aid funds to keep operating. But a more detailed plan was to be worked out that spelled out the future of the campuses.
Under the terms of the agreement, the campuses will inform students of their options and each campus will have a plan that allows students to complete their program, if they choose to do so. The company has agreed to only use federal aid funds for daily operations and will hire an independent monitor. Under a number of circumstances, students will be eligible for a refund paid for using a reserve fund of at least $30 million from Corinthian's funds.
The company faces multiple state and federal investigations. California Attorney General Kamala Harris has sought a court order that would force the company to stop advertising and to start telling prospective students that it is looking to sell or shut down its colleges.
Corinthian has not yet announced which locations will close.
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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