Embattled for-profit ASA College closes without teach-out plan


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Dive Brief: 

  • The accreditor for ASA College, an embattled for-profit institution headquartered in New York, announced Friday that the school has shuttered without an approved teach-out plan, which is a written plan meant to help students finish their credentials elsewhere. 
  • The closure comes after ASA College and Middle States Commission on Higher Education, or MSCHE, disagreed on whether the institution was closing. ASA College notified MSCHE that it would close on Feb. 24, the last day of its fall classes, according to the accreditor. But the institution said in an emailed statement earlier this month that it did not intend to close. 
  • The closure plans appear to have been muddled from the beginning. MSCHE noted on Feb. 10 that ASA College did not provide evidence that it communicated with constituents about its closure nor that it released transcripts to students wishing to transfer.

Dive Insight: 

ASA College’s financial and regulatory challenges have been mounting for some time. The for-profit found itself in hot water with its accreditor more than a year ago, leading the U.S. Department of Education to restrict its access to federal financial aid. 

Those issues came to a head in November, when MSCHE said it was planning to pull ASA College’s accreditation by March. At the time, the accreditor said the college couldn’t comply with its standards, including those related to governance, ethics and institutional resources. 

ASA College has also been in trouble with local regulators. The for-profit agreed in October to pay around $113,000 in civil penalties to New York City’s consumer protection division for running misleading ads targeting low-income people and immigrants. 

Moreover, a class-action lawsuit against ASA College has accused the institution of withholding and delaying payments to employees. To date, nearly two-dozen employees have joined the complaint as named plaintiffs, according to court documents. 

It’s unclear how many students are affected by the closure. Top ASA College officials did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Nicole Biever, MSCHE’s director for strategic partnerships and advocacy, said in an email Friday that the accreditor hasn’t been able to confirm the number despite repeated requests for details and for lists of students studying either online or at one of ASA College’s locations. 

Federal data shows the institution enrolled around 2,700 students in fall 2021. 

They may face hurdles transferring to other institutions. 

For one, ASA College has said students can either obtain their transcripts from the institution or Parchment Exchange, an online transcript provider. However, Biever noted that ASA College hasn’t provided MSCHE with details of the contract with the provider or evidence of payment. 

“ASA College cannot withhold student transcripts,” Biever said. “New York law prevents institutions from withholding student transcripts and from charging students higher fees for their transcripts if they have unpaid debts.” 

MSCHE has repeatedly reminded ASA College that they must release transcripts to students, Biever added. 

The accreditor also rejected ASA College’s teach-out plan Feb. 10, noting that it did not meet the agency’s standards. 

In one instance, the accreditor rejected a teach-out agreement with United International College because ASA College could not provide evidence that United International was accredited by an agency recognized by the Education Department. Colleges must be accredited by federally recognized agencies to receive federal financial aid. 

United International College, a for-profit in Florida, was accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. However, ACICS lost federal recognition in August because of continued noncompliance with the Education Department’s standards. Institutions under its purview have been given 18 months to find a new accreditor and are subject to enrollment restrictions until they do. 

Teach-out agreements with two nonprofits in Florida, Keiser University and Southeastern University, were also rejected because the institutions rescinded them, according to MSCHE. ASA College told the accreditor that it hasn’t pursued any teach-out agreements for online students. 

It’s unclear whether ASA College has been informing students of its teach-out agreements. In an FAQ provided by MSCHE about the institution’s closure, the accreditor said it hasn’t been able to locate disclosures about the agreements on ASA College’s website. 

Biever said MSCHE will continue to update the FAQ with information for those who are affected by the closure. 

As of Friday afternoon, a pop-up message on ASA College’s website said it was “currently” not accepting new applications for enrollment. 

MSCHE issued a public call for colleges to help ASA College students when the institution “failed to provide information about options for all of its students,” Biever said. 

Several colleges responded. Those include a variety of institution types, including local community colleges and a primarily online university. 


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