Vatterott College abruptly shuts down all campuses, affecting hundreds in Kansas City

Vatterott Educational Centers Inc. closed all its schools — including its Kansas City campus on North Corrington Avenue and a L’Ecole Culinaire location on Country Club Plaza — effective immediately Monday.

According to a Dec. 17 letter issued to students, a U.S. Department of Education decision to restrict the school’s participation in federal financial aid programs stymied plans to sell the St. Louis-based Vatterott Educational Centers Inc.’s for-profit trade schools to a buyer.

“Vatterott is unable to continue operation under these restrictions, and consequently, is unable to complete the aforementioned sale,” the letter read. “The Department imposed these restrictions despite the presence of an interested buyer and our clear communication that such restrictions would result in the school’s closure.”

Students and staff at all Vatterott locations were required to remove personal belongings from school buildings and leave campus.

A sign on the door at a St. Louis location simply read, “School closed as of 4 p.m. today (12/17/2018),” according to a tweet by a local reporter.

The letter said Vatterott Educational Centers was “working to identify other schools that may be able to take current students on transfer, so that those who have not yet graduated will have the opportunity to complete their program or one similar to it.”

It said it would post on its website more information about student transfers and how students could obtain their records. As of Monday afternoon, the website did not have information related to the closing.

Vatterott Educational Centers has locations in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Iowa.

In 2010, it reported a total enrollment of roughly 11,000 students. Current enrollment figures were not immediately available.

This year, Vatterott schools, including its culinary campuses, were placed on probation, according to the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Schools are placed on probation for not being in compliance with accrediting standards.

The Kansas City location also has had its share of controversy.

In 2013, a Jackson County jury found Vatterott Educational Centers Inc. to be in violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act after a former Kansas City-based student filed a lawsuit against the corporation.

The student said Vatterott deceived her when it enrolled her in what she thought was a medical assistant’s program. The student later learned she’d spent more than a year in a “worthless” preliminary program for which she’d taken out $27,000 in loans.

Vatterott was ordered to pay $27,676 in actual damages and $13 million in punitive damages. A judge later dropped the $13 million to $2 million to comply with a state damage cap.

In early 2017, the former president of the Kansas City campus said he was fired because he allowed a student to stay in the campus library overnight. Brian Carroll said he knew the student was homeless and was protecting him from near-zero temperatures.

Vatterott’s closing comes after the September announcement that Education Corporation of America, another for-profit institution, planned to close 26 campuses across the country by early 2020. Schools in that system had accreditation issues with the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training.

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