Seven years after opening its Chattanooga campus near Eastgate, Virginia College will close its Chattanooga school along with 15 other Virginia College campuses at the end of the current school year next year.
Enrollment at the private, for-profit school has dropped nearly in half from its peak in Chattanooga as Connect Tennessee has offered tuition-free programs at public community colleges and the improving job market has afforded many would-be students more lucrative options in the workplace.
The 174 students currently enrolled in courses at Virginia College in Chattanooga will be able to finish their courses this year and most should still be able to complete their certifications in the school's culinary, medical tech, cosmetology, business and other programs, officials said Thursday. But Education Corp. of America, the Birmingham, Alabama-based company that operates Virginia College, Brightwood and Ecotech Institute schools across the country, said the Chattanooga campus of Virginia College will shut down all operations next July.
Virginia College has operated its School of Business and Health next to the U.S. Post Office in Brainerd on Eastgate Loop since 2011.
"We've had insufficient demand for our programs and we haven't had enough enrollment at these campuses (being shut down) for some time," said Diane Worthington, vice president of marketing for Education Corp. of America. "So we made the decision to teach out our currently enrolled students and make sure they all have the opportunity to take their current classes and graduate and participate in our career placement and development to help them find jobs. After that, the campus will close."
Worthington said she expects most of the current students should complete their certification programs and, for the small number that do not graduate by next July, "we will work closely with them to transfer them to another school or they are eligible to receive a full refund."
Virginia College will continue to operate 11 campuses, including one in Knoxville.
"As always, we continue to focus on helping our students graduate and assisting them with getting jobs in their fields. We are proud of our history, and we look forward to the success of our final class of students," the school said in an announcement this week of its plans to close the Chattanooga campus.
Due to declining enrollment, Education Corp. of America also plans to close at the end of the school year Brightwood College campuses in seven cities, a Brightwood Career Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a Golf Academy of America in Phoenix.
Virginia College was among the private schools hurt in 2016 when the U.S. Department of Education initially withdrew its accreditation recognition for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), which had accredited Virginia College's courses. But U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos remanded that decision in March and, while ACICS is under review, the organization's accreditations are again valid.
The announcement of the planned closing of Virginia College comes two years after the ITT Technical Institute, another private, for-profit school that once operated at Eastgate, shut down its campuses in Chattanooga and 129 other cities after the U.S. Department of Education cut off the use of federal financial aid for ITT students because the agency said too many ITT students were not graduating or finding jobs.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340.