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Major for-profit school chain closes, leaving tens of thousands of students scrambling

Thousands of students are reportedly left scrambling after Education Corp. of America (ECA), one of the country's largest for-profit college chains, announced Wednesday that it would be abruptly closing more than 70 campuses across the United States.

The Associated Press reported that the company said it will be closing institutions operating as Virginia College, Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute and Golf Academy of America in more than 70 locations across 21 states this week.

The move comes after its accrediting agency suspended approval following allegations that it was racking up debt for students with academic loans while failing to provide them with marketable skills.

Diane Worthington, a spokeswoman for the ECA, told the news agency that Friday will be the last day of class for thousands of students at the select campuses, but she also added that they would still be able to receive academic credits for this term.

However, several ECA students expressed to the AP that the schools closures have left them with a major dilemma after they took out thousands of dollars in student loans.

Antoinette Flores, an associate director of postsecondary education policy at the Center for American Progress, told NBC News that a student can ask the Education Department to cancel their student loans when a school closes or they can move to continue their education at another school where their credits may not be accepted.

But Flores said students attending for-profit schools are "significantly" more likely to lose their academic credits.

One student at Brightwood College in Texas, Jasmin Cantú, told the publication that all of the colleges she has spoken to since ECA's announcement have said that they won't take a bulk of the credits she's earned while studying at Brightwood College for the past seven months to become a medical assistant.

She also said ECA has offered little help to students like her since its announcement.

"It's like if Brightwood College didn't exist, they have completely thrown everybody to the dirt and left us," she said. "It hurts us all so much."

Another student who joined the medical assistant program at Brightwood College in Indiana, Melissa Gonzalez, told NBC News that she had been taking classes for five months before she learned her school would be closing.

"It's horrible for me, I wasted all my money on school paying every month, I took out a loan," she said.

Although the announcement of the school closures seemed sudden for many students, Eileen Connor, the director of litigation at Harvard's Project on Predatory Student Lending, told the AP "the writing has been on the wall for a while."

"The writing has been on the wall for a while, and I think it's irresponsible that the schools continued to enroll students even when it was clear that an orderly wind-down would have been the better option," she told the news agency. 

"I think the students are being put in a really unfair position but one that was entirely predicable," she added. 

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