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Corinthian Colleges seeking to reassure students

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By BEN NUCKOLS
Associated Press

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) - A for-profit education company sought to reassure nervous students Tuesday that they'll be able to finish their degrees even though their campuses were being closed amid concerns from the Education Department about its practices.

Santa Ana, California-based Corinthian Colleges Inc. announced that the campuses being closed operate under the Everest name and are scattered in 11 states. The company faces multiple state and federal investigations.

Corinthian reached an agreement with the Education Department late last week that has it shutting down those campuses and putting 85 U.S.-based campuses up for sale. About a dozen others in Canada will also be sold.

The company was informing the 3,400 students at the affected campuses that if they have already started taking classes, they will be able to earn degrees. Operations at the campuses will wind down gradually, Corinthian spokesman Kent Jenkins said, and the company was in the midst of drafting a formal letter to students that will be sent once the Education Department approves of the language.

While most students will be able to finish their degrees at the same campuses where they enrolled, some might need to transfer to nearby schools with similar programs, Jenkins said. Some students will also be eligible for refunds under the agreement with the department.

Last month, the Education Department put Corinthian on heightened financial monitoring with a 21-day waiting period for federal funds. That was after the department said it failed to provide adequate paperwork and comply with requests to address concerns about the company's practices. The department said the concerns included allegations of falsifying job placement data used in marketing claims to prospective students, and allegations of altered grades and attendance.

Some students left comments on the Everest Facebook page expressing concerns that their degrees would be worthless. Corinthian was reaching out to those students individually and asking them to call for more information.

"I can certainly reassure students that nothing that's happening right now affects the accreditation of their schools or the value of their degree," Jenkins said.

Corinthian owns Everest College, Heald College and WyoTech schools, which together enroll about 72,000 students.

An Associated Press reporter who visited Corinthian's Silver Spring, Maryland, campus Tuesday afternoon was asked to leave by a woman who threatened to call security. She identified herself as the campus president but declined to repeat or spell her name. A few minutes earlier, after a reporter took business cards of campus staff left for visitors at the reception desk, a person walked to the desk and removed all the remaining cards.

The campus goes by the name Everest Institute and trains students to work as medical assistants. It occupies the seventh floor of a 12-story, glass-and-steel office building in the densely populated Washington suburb.

One employee hugged two receptionists as he left the office, carrying a pair of speakers and other personal items. A receptionist answered the phone by telling callers it was a "great day" at the Everest Institute.

The other campuses that are closing are in Bensalem, Pennsylvania; Chelsea, Massachusetts; Cross Lanes, West Virginia; Eagan, Minnesota; Fort Worth, Texas; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Merrillville, Indiana; Salt Lake City; St. Louis; and McLean, Virginia.

___

AP Education Writer Kimberly Hefling contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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