Updated at 10:20 a.m. Wednesday with new Durbin comments:
As part of a nationwide settlement with the federal government, the campus of for-profit Everest College in Earth City will be closing. The college has about 250 students, and they will be able to complete their courses, according to company spokesman Kent Jenkins. Everest stopped enrolling new students June 23, he said.
Everest is owned by the education company Corinthian Colleges Inc., which entered into a settlement last week with the federal Department of Education in a dispute over documentation of its use of federal student loan funds.
The department had put Corinthian under closer scrutiny, with a waiting period of 21 days for it to get money from Washington, after it failed to provide proper paperwork and answer questions about its student aid practices.
As part of the settlement, it agreed to sell 85 of its campuses in the United States and close 12 more, including the one in Earth City. The campuses being closed were identified Tuesday.
The St. Louis campus, located at 3420 Rider Trail South, offered training in six business and health care-related areas, including dental and medical assistant, massage therapy, pharmacy technician and medical insurance billing and coding.
Jenkins said that while the 12 campuses are in the process of being shut down – a process Everest calls “teaching out” – classes will go on as usual.
“If you were to visit the St. Louis campus today,” he said, “you would see pretty much normal operations going on…. Our goal is to minimize any disruption for these students.”
Under the agreement with federal education officials, any student enrolled at one of the campuses being closed is eligible for a refund, with determinations being made on a case-by-case basis.
As far as the job placement that is a big part of Everest’s advertising, Jenkins said that “when we have taught out schools in the past, we have kept job placement people on staff for a period of time.”
On its website, Everest calls its training “no-nonsense career programs designed to get you through school and into the job market as quickly as possible. Everest can schedule your courses to meet the demands of your other personal or professional commitments. Classes are offered nights, weekends and part-time to accommodate your needs.”
New president named in June
Last month, the school announced that Jeremiah Hood of St. Charles had been named president of the Earth City campus. A news release said that Hood had “more than 10 years of experience in higher education, with a focus on providing educational solutions to non-traditional, adult learners.”
Everest also has had campuses in Springfield and Kansas City.
When Corinthian’s problems first surfaced last month, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., urged community colleges in his state to make certain that 3,300 students attending Everest College campuses in six locations would be able to continue their education at an affordable price.
“Illinois community colleges should work to fill the void that Corinthian has irresponsibly created,” Durbin wrote. “If not, we know who will. Other for-profit colleges are anxious to get access to these students. It would only be adding insult to injury to allow their students to be pushed into the open arms of another for-profit college, especially one that is being investigated by state or federal agencies.”
Last year, the senator had asked for a federal probe into what he called “manipulative marketing practices” by Corinthian, following an investigation by the Huffington Post. That story said that Corinthian’s job placement claims were inflated and students often left the school with thousands of dollars in debt but no employment in the field for which they had trained.
In a statement released Wednesday, Durbin urged students not to enroll at Everest's campuses in Illinois.
“It is disgusting that Everest Colleges in Illinois have been allowed by the U.S. Department of Education to continue actively enrolling students,” the senator said. “Every day, I hear reports that advertising for these schools still remains on television and radio – advertising that, no doubt, has been paid for with federal taxpayer dollars. This is appalling.
"Students in my state should take note: Everest College can't deliver on its promises. Do not enroll in these schools that are going out of business when there are plenty of good public universities and community colleges that often offer the same or better courses and cost much less.”
Concerning job placement, the St. Louis campus website makes this promise:
“When you complete your studies, the Career Placement Services staff can help you prepare for the transition between school and the workforce. You can get help fine-tuning your resume, honing your interviewing skills and even get help with wardrobe selection. The campus is also connected to a robust network of local employers that recognize and value the quality of education Everest provides.”
It also says that scholarships, grants, government assistance and private loans are available for students who qualify.
The Associated Press contributed information for this story.