PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) - The Sawyer School ‘misrepresented' the plan submitted to the state for where and how students would continue their educations if the school closed according to the Rhode Island Department of Higher Education.
Last week, the for-profit vocational school closed with virtually no notice to its 302 students who were enrolled in the school's certificate programs that cost just over $20,000 a year. State officials say many of them have outstanding student loans.
The school's annual certification renewal application that was filed in August with the Department of Higher Education included what's known as a School Closure Teach Out Plan.
That document details how students would be transferred to Lincoln Technical Institute if Sawyer closed. It states that ‘active student files will also be provided' including transcripts, declaration of eligibility and enrollment agreements.
The problem according the Department of Higher Education is Lincoln Technical School was unaware it was part of the plan.
"The agreement no longer existed," RIDHE spokesman Michael Trainor said. "So, we were confronted with a misrepresentation on the part of Sawyer."
Trainor added that The Sawyer School also violated its agreement with the state to provide a 60 day notice before closing.
Lincoln Technical Institute's CEO Scott Shaw told Target 12 his for profit school will do what it can to help the Sawyer students but he confirms Lincoln was never consulted.
"They did not contact us," Shaw said.
The students are still waiting for the paperwork that was promised to be accessible by the teach out plan.
Meanwhile, Rhode Island State Police tell Target 12, officers pulled documents Thursday from the Sawyer School's Pawtucket campus.
"I cannot say what we took from that location," State Police Captain Michael Winquist said.
State police have confirmed their investigation into what happened at The Sawyer School continues and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is involved.
Trainor tells Target 12 the state is still trying to lock down how many Sawyer students have outstanding, federally funded student loans. The state has filed a claim on a $430,000 bond that the school took out last year. The bond expired on January 1, 2013 but Trainor is confident the bond was in effect when Sawyer announced the closure on December 28.
"We have a copy of the letter," Trainor said. "That (bond) money's sole purpose would be to pay the students' costs."
The renewal application also stated that the school had more than $5 million in money to work with as of October.
"In the case of the finances, this was an audited CPA statement from a firm in New York and we had no reason to question it," Trainor said.
We reached out to Sawyer School officials but they did not respond.
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