SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — When private colleges suddenly shut down, students are left to worry about their education and their tuition. One state office wants to make sure students do not miss out on money they could be getting back.
An average of 79 schools close per year in California, according to numbers from the state’s Office of Student Assistance and Relief.
Brightwood College was one of those schools.
Nicole Razon enrolled in Brightwood in 2018 to become a medical assistant. She was several months into the program when she got the sudden news that the school was shutting down.
Razon, who was once an active-duty Marine, took it in stride.
“Do I wish I probably didn't choose Brightwood? Maybe,” she said. “But I wouldn't change it because I still am in contact with a lot of students.”
Fortunately, Razon was able to transfer and graduate from a different school, but she knows some of her younger classmates were lost.
“A lot of the other students were really emotional, shocked, [and] super upset,” Razon said.
“You’re not in it alone,” said Scott Valverde, the Chief of the Office of Student Assistance and Relief (OSAR). “We’ve had students who felt things like anger and guilt and frustration.”
OSAR is an office under the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. It was created in 2017 following most notably, the shutdown of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech.
Valverde said since 2018, the office developed outreach campaigns to students from roughly 25 schools in the San Diego area that closed. He said OSAR has assisted approximately 6,500 students in the local area in a number of ways including one-on-one contacts, helping with claims, and workshops.
OSAR helped with connecting students “with resources [and] explaining to them their rights and responsibilities when it when a closure like that happens.”
On social media, the office is alerting former San Diego students of schools like Brightwood, Argosy University, and Golf Academy of America that there is money on the table if you were enrolled within 120 days of the school's shutdown.
Valverde said there is no cap on the amount. “It can be the full amount of your economic loss that you’ve suffered as a student,” he said.
Since 2018, roughly 300 San Diego students have applied for the Student Tuition Recovery Fund. Of those, Valverde said 200 claims have been approved for about $2 million total in restitution.
Team 10 asked OSAR about another shuttered San Diego school—the Art Institute. A spokesperson confirmed some of those students are also eligible for tuition recovery. So far, the office has received 22 claims from former AI students.
Valverde said tuition recovery may not be approved for numerous reasons including discharged loans or reset benefits. At minimum, he recommends students contact their office. “We are an advocate for you,” he said.
Razon is now working in her desired field as a medical assistant. She was able to figure out her payments through the GI bill. For others, she said OSAR could be a good resource.
“It is super intimidating and overwhelming to process, so I think OSAR can help them,” Razon said.
To learn more about OSAR, click here. You can also contact OSAR through email at email@example.com.