December 6, 2023

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Diving Overview:

  • Accreditor ASA College, a committed for-profit institution based in New York, announced Friday that the school was closed without an approved curriculum, a written plan to help students complete their credentials elsewhere.
  • The closure comes after ASA College and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) disagreed on whether the institution should close. ASA College notified MSCHE that it will be closed on February 24, the last day of its fall classes, according to accreditation. But the institution stated statement by e-mail earlier this month that she was not going to close.
  • The plans for the closure appear to have been muddled from the start. MSCHE noted on Feb. 10 that ASA College did not provide evidence that it had communicated with its constituents about its closure or that it had provided transcripts to students who wished to transfer.

Diving Statistics:

ASA College’s financial and regulatory problems have been mounting for some time. The profit found itself in hot water with its accreditor more than a year ago, leading the U.S. Department of Education to limit access to federal financial aid.

Those issues came to a head in November, when MSCHE said it planned to obtain ASA College accreditation until March. At the time, the accreditor said the college could not meet its standards, including those related to governance, ethics and institutional resources.

ASA College also has problems with local regulators. Profits agreed in October pay around $113,000 in civil penalties against the New York Division of Consumer Protection for running misleading ads targeting low-income people and immigrants.

Additionally, a class-action lawsuit against ASA College accused the institution of withholding and delaying payments to employees. To date, nearly two dozen employees have joined the complaint as named plaintiffs, according to court documents.

It is unclear how many students will be affected by the closure. Top ASA College officials did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Nicole Biever, MSCHE’s director of strategic partnerships and advocacy, said in an email Friday that the accreditor was unable to confirm the number despite repeated requests for details and for lists of students studying either online or at one of the ASA College locations.

Federal data shows the institution enrolled about 2,700 students in fall 2021.

They may face obstacles when transferring to other institutions.

First, ASA College said students can obtain their transcripts from either the institution or Pergamen Exchange, an online transcript provider. However, Biever noted that ASA College did not provide MSCHE with details of the provider contract or proof of payment.

“ASA College cannot withhold student transcripts,” Biever said. “New York law prevents institutions from withholding student transcripts and charging students higher fees for their transcripts if they have unpaid debts.”

MSCHE has repeatedly reminded ASA College that it must provide students with transcripts, Biever added.

The accreditor also rejected ASA College’s teaching plan on February 10, saying it did not meet the agency’s standards.

In one case, an accreditor rejected a teaching agreement with United International College because ASA College could not provide evidence that United International was accredited by an agency recognized by the Ministry of Education. Colleges must be accredited by federally recognized agencies in order to receive federal financial aid.

United International College, a for-profit in Florida, was accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. However, ACICS lost federal recognition in August due to continued non-compliance with Ministry of Education standards. Institutions under its purview have been given 18 months to find a new accreditor and are subject to enrollment restrictions until they do so.

Tuition agreements with two Florida nonprofits, Keizer University and Southeastern University, were also rejected because the institutions canceled them, according to MSCHE. ASA College has advised the accreditor that it has not entered into any tuition agreements for online students.

It is unclear whether ASA College has notified students of its tuition arrangements. In the FAQ provided by MSCHE on the closure of the institutionthe accreditor stated that it was unable to find information about the agreements on the ASA College website.

Biever said MSCHE will continue to update the FAQ with information for those affected by the closure.

On Friday afternoon, a pop-up message appeared on the ASA College website saying it was “currently” not accepting new enrollment applications.

MSCHE issued a public appeal to colleges to help ASA College students when the institution “failed to provide information about options for all of its students,” Biever said.

Several colleges responded. These include various types of institutions, including local community colleges and primarily online universities.

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