The nonprofit operator of the troubled Everest College said Thursday that it will shut its Vancouver and Portland campuses and consolidate its metro-area programs at its existing Tigard, Ore., campus.
The Vancouver campus, at 120 N.E. 136th Ave., serves approximately 120 students, the nonprofit Zenith Education Group, which operates Everest colleges, said in a statement. Most students will begin to transition in January and should be completed by April, depending on student needs and any issues related to a school partnership with the state, Zenith said. The downtown Portland campus has about 80 students.
The college also said it was consolidating Puget Sound-area campuses with the merger of Bremerton, Seattle and Renton locations into campuses in Everett and Tacoma, a move affecting about 300 students.
“To reach this decision, Zenith weighed a number of factors including trends in student population, program completion and job placement rates,” the college operator said.
The move comes not long after Zenith in February acquired 56 Everest and WyoTech campuses in 17 states that had previously been operated by the now-defunct for-profit Corinthian Colleges Inc. Zenith was a newly formed unit of student loan guarantor Educational Credit Management Corp. Group Inc. Dana Rocks, a spokesperson for Zenith, said the campus consolidations are part of a broader effort to transform the schools from for-profit to nonprofit status. Rocks noted that the college had reduced tuition rates, provided grants for financially needy students, and phased out programs with limited enrollment.
Still, the closure must have come as a surprise to local college officials. On Nov. 19, the Vancouver campus sent a news release announcing a ribbon-cutting to celebrate its conversion to a nonprofit career education college and to launch a scholarship program. Vancouver City Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle was scheduled to attend. But one day later the college sent notice that the event had been rescheduled to Jan. 26. The Vancouver campus offered the county’s only massage therapy program and training programs in a variety of administrative and office fields. The school started in 1999 in Vancouver as a massage therapy program.
Zenith said most programs and classes offered in Vancouver are also available in Tigard. Students enrolled in classes or programs not available at the new location will be given other options, including a transfer to another course of study with credit given for completed work or a full refund, Rocks said in a written response to questions from The Columbian. Students can be reimbursed for their tuition costs and relieved of their loans if they choose not to transfer to Tigard, Rocks wrote.
The Tigard campus, the Everett Tigard Institute, 9600 S.W. Oak St. in Tigard, is 25 miles from the Vancouver campus. Zenith said in its statement that the campus, with about 160 students, has “ample capacity” to serve added students brought in through the consolidation.
“Academic leaders are currently meeting one-on-one with each student to determine his or her personalized academic plan, with the goal of all students completing their programs,” Zenith said.
Corinthian loan settlement
Meanwhile, the tumultuous legacy of the college’s former operator, California-based Corinthian, continues to play out.
The government is erasing the loan debt of more than 7,000 former students of the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges — totaling more than $100 million. But that represents a tiny fraction of a federal debt-forgiveness program that could run well into the billions of dollars.
The Education Department says it has approved a second wave of Corinthian loan forgiveness, this one for students who filed “borrower’s defense” claims alleging they were lied to or misled by the company.
The relief covers 1,300 former students from Corinthian’s Heald College, totaling about $28 million.
Another 5,800 former Corinthian students who filed “closed school” claims will see their debt discharged, totaling $75 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.