Alabama Community College System offers help to Virginia College students

HUNTSVILLE, Ala - It's been nearly 10 days since Virginia College announced it's closing its doors. Students are telling WHNT News 19 their phone calls are not being returned and the school is not offering answers. The Alabama Community College System is stepping in to help.

"I've been calling, but I haven't been able to get any, you know, answers. I'm not even sure if anyone is still in the building," Virginia College student Raqueal Hamlett said.

Silence...That's what many Virginia College students are getting from the for-profit college as they try to get answers about their degrees. The Alabama Community College System wants to help these students and they've set up a website to do just that.

"It just kind of helps solidify a couple things for them, and maybe even closure to their situation, to let them know that there is hope, and just to know what's happening," Drake State Community and Technical College's Acting Dean of Student Services, Pamela Little said.

The website offers a wealth of information. It has contact information for every community college in the state in one place. It also has a link to a resource to help Virginia College students get their transcripts, and another link to the US Department of Education website to apply to get their Virginia College loans dismissed.

"There are several options to qualify for to get those loans dismissed and one of them is if your institution closes. So, that is exactly the situation for Virginia College," Calhoun Community College's Dean for Institutional Advancement, Janet Kincherlow-Martin said.

Raqueal Hamlett has already accessed the website.

"I was actually able to reach out to Calhoun as well as Drake and see how they will be able to benefit Virginia College students," she said.

And even though the Virginia College closure is creating uncertainty, she isn't giving up on her dream of getting a degree.

Community college could be an option for Virginia College students

When Virginia College announced its plans to suddenly close its doors this month, it shattered graduation plans for many students in Huntsville. The Alabama Community College System is reaching out to help these students.

Officials from the system say they know it won't be a seamless transition, but they want to help students continue their education at a community college if it fits their degree program.

Instead of being full of pomp for graduation, Raqueal Hamlett is feeling regret.

"I should have listened to people about Virginia College and I should have seen the warning signs coming, but I didn't. So, with that being said, I learned my lesson. Never again and I'm going to an accredited college this time," Hamlett said.

She is one of many students working to figure out how to continue their education. The ACCS wants students to know community colleges can be an option.

Little says it's their goal to "make the students aware that education is still an option for them. Just because this has been deferred for them, it doesn't mean that it's denied, that it can't continue. We're here to support them."

Transitioning to a community college won't be seamless since the schools don't have the same accreditation.

"Their academic credits, those Englishes and maths, that would transfer to a two and a four-year degree. They're not going to be able to transfer. Some of those technical classes might transfer, but it's on a case by case basis," Kincherlow-Martin said.

On the bright side, the community college courses will be more affordable.

"Our tuition is about $150 a credit hour. For a three-hour class, we're talking about around $450 for a class as opposed to several thousand dollars," Kincherlow-Martin said.

Hamlett says no matter the cost, she will not stop in her pursuit of higher education.

"You can't win a race if you're not in a race. Well, I'm in this race to win it and I'm not stopping till I finish," she said.

This is not the first time a for-profit college has closed in Huntsville. Two years ago ITT Tech closed their doors and left students in a similar situation.