Education

Heald students must decide whether to stay the course or seek loan forgiveness

Students gather near Heald College’s campus in Roseville to demand answers from administrators and express their unhappiness with the college’s abrupt closing on Monday, April 27, 2015, in Roseville, Calif.
Students gather near Heald College’s campus in Roseville to demand answers from administrators and express their unhappiness with the college’s abrupt closing on Monday, April 27, 2015, in Roseville, Calif. rpench@sacbee.com

Displaced Heald College students in Roseville are stressing over a difficult choice after their school abruptly closed a week ago.

They can transfer the credits they’ve earned to another school and carry the heavy debtload they built at for-profit Heald. Or they can have their federal loans eliminated if they forfeit all their Heald credits – and the time spent earning them.

Former Heald student Sara Douglass, 30, was studying to be a registered dental assistant. She said she’s not sure what she should do next.

“I have $16,000 in loans,” she said. “But if I take the loan forgiveness, all of my hard-earned credits go with it. I was six months away from graduation.”

Corinthian Colleges, Heald’s parent company, closed its doors to 16,000 students at 28 schools on Monday. The move affected students at Heald Colleges in California, Oregon and Hawaii; WyoTech campuses in California; and Everest campuses in California, Arizona and New York.

The majority of Corinthian schools were sold last year to a nonprofit student-loan servicer after the U.S. Department of Education restricted its students’ ability to obtain federal loans, the main source of revenue for the company. But Corinthian could not find a buyer for the California properties, which the company has blamed in part on California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ suit against the company. Harris and federal officials have alleged that Corinthian schools misled students about the value of their education by using exaggerated job-placement data.

Last week, Morris and other displaced Heald students picked up their records at campuses in Rancho Cordova and Roseville. In Roseville, students said representatives from more than a half-dozen colleges serving the Sacramento area, including American River College in Sacramento County and Sierra College in Rocklin, offered guidance and information.

“Our outreach coordinator went to the Roseville event and already has a fairly big list of students who have expressed interest,” Sierra College spokeswoman Sue Michaels said.

She said the college’s financial-aid department is “working hard to figure out what Heald students will need to know” in preparation for a community service session this month.

Students can get their federal loans discharged if a school shuts down. That extends to students who were enrolled when it closed or had dropped out no more than 120 days before closure.

Eligibility for loan discharge is eliminated, however, if students transfer any credits to a similar program at another institution, said Ben Miller, a former policy adviser in the U.S. Education Department and a higher education research director at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

Yvonne McCauley, 49, said she dreads the prospect of starting over. The student in medical office administration said she’s considering a switch to William Jessup University in Rocklin.

She’s come too far, she said, to quit and was on track to graduate in October. But with more than $28,000 in education loans, she said she doesn’t want any more debt.

“Thank God there is hair color,” McCauley said. “My hair is getting gray.”

Lindsey Morris, 29, said she hopes to enroll at Carrington College so she can continue her studies to become a registered dental assistant.

“I’m not a failure, and I don’t give up,” said Morris, a single mother who was on track to graduate from Heald in July. “I just dust myself off and look for the next place to go.”

Call The Bee’s Loretta Kalb, (916) 321-1073. Follow her on Twitter @LorettaSacBee.

Where to find help:

The California Attorney General’s Office is hosting an interactive Webinar at 1 p.m. Monday with support from various agencies, including the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, the California Student Aid Commission and the U.S. Department of Education. The online link is at http://sacb.ee/36od.

William Jessup University will answer questions at its Rocklin campus, 333 Sunset Blvd., at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. For details, visit www.jessup.edu/heald.

Sierra College in Rocklin has planned an event for students from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 15 at the campus, 5000 Rocklin Road. For details, email college spokeswoman Sue Michaels at smichaels@sierracollege.edu.

The California Attorney General’s Office has set up an interactive website for students to help analyze their options: oag.ca.gov/corinthiantool.

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