Corinthian photo 7-9-14Corinthian College, a North American, multi-campus school offering programs including massage therapy, announced July 3 that it would sell 85 of its U.S. campuses and close the remaining 12 over the next six months. Corinthian will also begin the process of selling its 10 Canadian campuses. The for-profit college runs schools under the names Everest, Heald and WyoTech. More than 72,000 students are enrolled at Corinthian campuses in the U.S.

According to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), Corinthian “failed to address concerns about its practices, including falsifying job-placement data used in marketing claims to prospective students and allegations of altered grades and attendance.” Under an agreement reached with the USDE, Corinthian will hand over all job-placement and enrollment data, which has been overdue since January, by July 15.

U.S. Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell added, “The Department’s foremost interest is to protect students and make sure they are educated by institutions that operate in accordance with our standards … [w]e made the decision to increase oversight of Corinthian Colleges after careful consideration and as part of our obligations to protect hardworking taxpayers and students’ futures.” Corinthian students receive $1.4 billion in federal financial aid annually.

However, the agreement Corinthian entered into with the USDE will allow for students to complete their programs, according to a Corinthian press release. The USDE will also release $35 million in student aid to be used to continue classes for current students.

“The closure of [Corinthian’s] schools nationally, including over 80 massage therapy programs, is very big news,” Alliance for Massage Therapy Education President Pete Whitridge, L.M.T., told MASSAGE Magazine. “Thousands of massage therapy students and teachers will be affected.”

Whitridge said he believes that many students will drop out during the campus sales process, and he also doubts that many of the massage programs will continue under new owners. “I think they will just close the programs,” he said. “I don’t think they were highly profitable, and I think the people who are going to buy the campuses will focus more on mechanics and [other more lucrative] programs. A call placed to Corinthian’s public relations department, in part to ascertain the total number of massage therapy students enrolled at its campuses, was not returned by press time.

“I think a lot of recruitment that was happening at Corinthian was just to get people in the seats, or if people flushed out of other programs they were told, ‘You can go into this massage program, this lower-tier health program,’ just to keep them in the circle of funds,” Whitridge added.

In October 2010, in response to rapid growth in enrollment, debt and default rates at for-profit educational institutions, the USDE released new rules to protect taxpayers and students from “aggressive or misleading recruiting practices,” so as to give consumers higher quality information about career colleges’ success rates and training programs, “and ensuring that only eligible students or programs receive aid,” according to a USDE statement.

Corinthian may be the largest for-profit institution forced to close under the new rules; however, smaller schools have been affected as well, Whitridge said.

“The DOE has shut down a variety of small, owner-operator [massage] schools, mostly because they can’t come up with bonds,” he said, pointing to the Boulder College of Massage, in Colorado, which closed in 2013 after 38 years in operation. “Boulder had a bond with the city, but they couldn’t make their bond payment because they had trouble with their accreditor, and the feds came in and said, ‘You need to make the bond,’ and they couldn’t,” Whitridge said.

States are also taking a closer look at private post-secondary schools. In June, Twin Lakes College of the Healing Arts, in Santa Cruz, California, for example, closed after 32 years in business after losing its state approval.

“Now that [regulators] have cracked the reality of what’s happening at the big schools, the small schools need to have some information about this,” Whitridge said.

While the AFMTE might seem the logical choice for the dissemination of such information, Whitridge said his organization doesn’t have the funds needed to embark on educating massage schools about rules and regulations.

“My dream is to have a pool of money where [massage] schools could have their own pool to do student loans,” he said, “but there is nothing that we are institutionally qualified to do at the moment.”

Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine‘s editor in chief.

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