LAKESIDE - In the midst of all the questions from students like Rochelle Bara is a strong feeling of frustration over the abrupt closure of Heritage College in Lakeside.
"Nobody's given us any information," Bara said. "I have $27,000 in debt from the school and I don't even know if I am going to get a diploma at the end of this."
Heritage College is a for-profit school that helps students seek careers in fields ranging from skin care to dental hygiene, to blood work. Bara was days from graduation with a job already lined up in the field of dermatology.
"And, they're waiting for me to get licensed, but I can't believe the school is closed," Bara said.
Tuesday afternoon, students found the doors locked with a note stating the Heritage College in Colorado and at the nine other campuses nationwide have shut down effective immediately. Students say they paid the college roughly $15,000 per year in tuition.
"We want someone to talk to us and tell us what's going on," Bara said.
Callie Parreco is the former national director of regulatory compliance for Heritage College. She is now out of work.
"We didn't get our paychecks," Parreco said. "I've been here 16 years. I have cancer. I have no insurance."
Despite her personal struggles, Parreco says she is more concerned about the students. She says she knew that something like this was coming.
"I know there was a lawsuit in Kansas City that they lost," Parreco said.
Two former employees filed a $32.8 million lawsuit claiming that Heritage College falsified attendance records and changed grades so it could receive financial aid money from the government.
"They demoted me from that position I believe because I knew, I knew things were not being done correctly," Parreco said.
Heritage College is owned by Weston Educational Inc. which is run by a car dealer in Fort Collins, Earl Weston of Weston Auto Gallery. When contacted by phone, he did want to comment. Instead, he referred 9News to his web site which states:
Heritage College educated students for health care careers for 30 years, and this is very difficult news for everyone affected particularly our students, teachers, and staff.
The reason for the campus closures is that Heritage does not have the cash to continue to run its business. Numerous factors contributed to the circumstances including declining student population and a continued, decreased demand for the services of for-profit schools. Heritage did not close due to wrongdoing or a forced closure by a regulatory body, and we did explore a range of options that would have enabled the campuses to remain open serving students. Unfortunately, the options were not viable and our efforts proved unsuccessful.
We thank our faculty, staff and, mostly, our students. They had the courage to pursue a new career path and we were honored to help them achieve their goals.
Please send inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org "
Parreco says she staff were told Tuesday afternoon that the school would close its doors that day.
"And, I begged them," Parreco said. "I said we're not ITT. We can't go down this road."
ITT Tech is another for-profit school that recently closed.
Parreco says Heritage College is supposed to keep transcripts and diplomas and the U.S. Department of Education can help them get the outstanding student loans dissolved.
Wednesday night, students and staff meet to discuss next steps which may include filing a lawsuit.
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Bara just wants her diploma.
"I feel like I've sacrificed a lot and gone to school for a year-and-a-half to better myself for my child and myself," Bara said. "For them to do this to tons of students and people, it's not right."
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