Nichole Cardin has a stack of textbooks she can’t use.
“I showed up to school last night and there was a sign on the door,” she said. “All the lights were off.”
Cardin’s school, the Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute in West Warwick closed permanently, according to that sign.
The mom of two was six months into her medical assistant program.
“We’re trying to do everything to better ourselves and that was literally taken from us,” Cardin said.
While students at Ridley-Lowell’s four campuses in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York scramble for answers in the wake of the abrupt closure, instructors like Cynthia Clarke are also trying to figure out what’s next.
“A lot of us, it’s very hard to start over in our 60s,” Clarke told Call 12 for Action. “But, actually today I feel more sorry for the students than myself.”
In an email sent to students, school owner Terry Weymouth explained, “Ridley-Lowell faced severe financial and operational challenges over the last year, after the U.S. Department of Education withdrew recognition of its accreditor, ACICS.”
ACICS, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools is now under review by the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, following a December 12, 2016 decision of then-Secretary John King withdrawing the council’s recognition, and according to the U.S. Dept. of Education, ACICS will retain its status as a federally recognized accrediting agency until DeVos makes a final decision.
“As the court ordered, we will fairly consider all of the facts presented and make an appropriate determination on ACICS’s petition,” DeVos said in an April 3rd news release.
Cardin fears the school’s closure will ultimately cost her thousands of dollars and precious time.
“If we can’t find anyone to take our credits, we all have to start over,” Cardin said. “There are people who only had a couple more weeks left that would have to start over and that’s sickening.”
Staff from the R.I. Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner has been in touch with schools that offer similar programs to see if Ridley-Lowell students may be able to transfer credits to complete their education, according to the agency’s spokesperson, Nicole Shaffer-Thomas.
In an emailed statement, Shaffer-Thomas said, “We will be looking into why Ridley-Lowell did not provide the required 30 days’ advance notice to its students or to our office. We are committed to helping the affected students get answers to their questions and figure out their next steps.”
Students who have questions should contact the Postsecondary Commissioner’s office by calling 401-736-1118 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call 12 for Action reached out to Weymouth for comment. He has not responded.