Jersey Nursing School Sold, Then Saved
Students from defunct Harrison Career Institute campus didn’t know if they would be able to continue their education.
By Dana Ford
Dozens of students who attend the Deptford, N.J., campus of the Harrison Career Institute are getting a second chance to continue their
The South Jersey campus stopped participating in a federal student aid program this year, leaving about 40 nursing students scrambling to either find new funding or find another school.
In its prime, HCI ran 13 campuses across Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. But financial problems and decreasing student enrollment have forced the institute to close seven campuses in recent months.
Many of the institute’s long-standing financial issues have been resolved, however, after the sale of the Deptford campus to the Lincoln Technical Institute. The sale means the campus’s nursing students will not have to look elsewhere to continue their education.
“For a while, many students did not know what we were going to do,” says student Sabrina Washington. “Fortunately everything has been resolved as far as our student aid is concerned, and we no longer have to worry.”
In January, HCI’s Deptford campus stopped participating in Title IV, a federal student aid program that includes Direct Loans and Pell Grants. According to Fred Fitchett, the institute’s president, the decision was the result of ongoing problems with the U.S. Department of Education.
In 2005, facing allegations of student financial aid fraud, HCI agreed to enter the Education Department’s Heightened Cash Monitoring program. As part of the program, the school applied for reimbursement instead of receiving aid money up front, says Fitchett. Typically, schools receive the reimbursement within 30 days of the request, he says. But HCI was forced to wait up to four months in some cases. The delayed reimbursement forced the school to operate on cash reserves during the 2005-2006 academic year.
“It just got to the point where we couldn’t sustain it. We just couldn’t keep going on that way,” Fitchett says, adding that the Education Department still owes HCI at least $1 million in student aid reimbursement. “It’s one of the most horrendous examples of governmental abuse, as far as I’m concerned,” he says. Reimbursement delays also caused an “economic crunch” that forced school officials to close HCI’s Delran, N.J., campus on Jan. 26, he adds.
Although Fitchett says ending the Deptford campus’s participation in the Title IV program was a deliberate act, Education Department officials say it was inevitable after HCI’s main campus in Delran shut down.
“Since the eligibility of additional locations is tied into the program participation agreements that the main locations have with the department, they also lose their Title IV eligibility when a main location closes,” says Jane Glickman, an Education Department spokeswoman.
With HCI out of the Title IV program, the nursing students at Deptford’s campus were left with three options: find non-Title IV loans or grants; drop out and receive a full course refund; or transfer to the Vineland campus, which still accepts Title IV. Vineland’s Title IV eligibility was not affected because it is considered a main campus, and thus has a separate participation agreement with the Education Department, Glickman says.
By state mandate, students had only three weeks to make a decision, says Fitchett. But on March 5, HCI finalized a deal to sell the campus for an undisclosed amount to the 61-year-old Lincoln Technical Institute, which currently operates in 11 states. Because LTI participates in Title IV, the students will remain eligible to receive federal financial aid.
“We thought the transfer was in the best interest of everyone so that the students would have the availability of Title IV,” Fitchett says of the sale.
The nursing program, which trains licensed practical nurses, will be Lincoln’s first such program in the state.
Students will continue to attend classes at the Deptford campus until the lease on the property expires in August. The program will then be moved to Lincoln’s sprawling campus in Mount Laurel, N.J.
“Nurses are in very high demand right now,” says Lincoln vice president Scott Shaw. “Lincoln acquired this program so that we could make a quality LPN course offering available to more students in the state of New Jersey.”
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