Virginia College students worry about loans and transferring credits

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala - It has been almost a week since Education Corporation of America announced it was closing all its colleges, which includes Virginia College in Huntsville. Many students fear they are out thousands of dollars in tuition costs as they struggle to find a school that will accept their credits.

"You see it, and you hear about it, but you never think it will happen to you," Raqueal Hamlett said. She was a Virginia College student and now she is scrambling to find a school that will accept her credits.

"They're not accepting them. The only school that will accept Virginia College credit is not offering my major."

"It's quite disappointing because we have seen the trend of those for-profit colleges going out of business," Huntsville Bible College President John Clay said.

Clay says this is a sad situation he has seen before.

"Students are kind of left holding the bag, especially when you talk about loans that they'll have to pay whether they complete their degree or not," he said.

He says it can be difficult to transfer from a for-profit college because of the accreditation.

"Most of the schools in this area are SACS accredited and they don't receive school credit outside of that area."

Huntsville Bible College has two associate degree programs that are comparable to programs at Virginia College, business management and information technology. HBC's accreditation is different than other schools in the area.

"We're ABHE, Association for Biblical Higher Education. It is a Department of Education accreditation and so we have a little more flexibility than SACS schools do," he explained.

But how many credits will actually transfer will be answered on a case by case basis.

Huntsville Bible College isn't the only institution in the area trying to help students. Drake State is hosting open houses for people affected by the closure.

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Student Loan Information

Raqueal Hamlett is trying to figure out what to do next after Virginia College announced they were closing their doors this month. It's a move officials with the US Department of Education say was not best for students or ECA's only option.

"The department was in daily conversations with ECA and potential teach-out partners to assist as many students as possible to find a new institutional home. Instead of taking the next few months to close in an orderly fashion, ECA took the easy way out and left 19,000 students scrambling to find a way to finish the education program they started," Press Secretary Liz Hill told WHNT News 19 in a statement.

Hamlett spent more than $20,000 to pay for her degree and even though she won't be able to finish her program, she says she still has to pay.

"Virginia College told us that day that we're still responsible for everything that we had took out and that we wasn't going to get our money back," she said.

According to the US Department of Education website, students may qualify for a student loan discharge if you were enrolled when your school closed or withdrew from all classes on or after a certain date. That date is listed for several Virginia College campuses, but so far, not for the Huntsville, Birmingham or Mobile location.

US Department of Education officials hope Virginia College students look at their website to find more information about their student loans.