A private vocational school abruptly closed its two Oklahoma City campuses last week, prompting some of its 80 students to transfer to Platt College of Moore and leaving others bewildered about what comes next.
ATI Career Training Center has closed its campuses at Shepherd Mall and near Crossroads Mall, Art Rodriguez, vice president of compliance for the company, confirmed Wednesday.
He said any further comment would have to come through written correspondence with company officials.
ATI is regulated in this state by the Oklahoma Board of Private Vocational Schools. Nora House, director for that board, said it is her understanding that ATI is closing most of its campuses in Oklahoma and four other states.
The company is based in North Richland Hills, Texas, near Fort Worth. At one point, it was operating 24 campuses with more than 9,000 students in Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma, according to its website.
ATI was founded in 1965. The Shepherd Mall location was first licensed in 2006, and the location near Crossroads Mall was licensed in 2009, House said.
“They were in good standing at the time this all came down,” she said.
House said ATI officials notified her agency Nov. 1 that the company was starting the process of closing its campuses nationwide after the company's name was “tarnished” by some actions in Texas and perhaps Florida.
The Texas Workforce Commission revoked certificates of approval for ATI to operate 22 programs at its Texas career schools in August 2011 following the discovery of substantial misreporting of graduate employment rates in those programs, according to a commission news release.
“It had nothing to do with Oklahoma,” House said.
House said her agency was monitoring ATI throughout November while it attempted to complete an orderly closing of the school by allowing current students to complete their course work while not accepting new students.
On Nov. 26, House said she approved a subsequent agreement that called for Platt College to take over teaching the 50 or so students in ATI's medical and dental assisting programs.
Those students went through orientation at Platt College last week and started classes on Monday, she said. Those students will receive certificates from Platt College, rather than ATI, if they complete their course work, she said.
“That same type of arrangement was attempted for the auto repair and HVAC air conditioning students — that's about 30 students,” she said. “Late on Friday, that failed.”
House said it is her understanding the effort fell through when an appropriate sublease agreement couldn't be worked out for the facility.
When students showed up for class Friday, they were given their transcripts and told the school was closing, said Paula Aduddell, a student in the school's heating, ventilation and air conditioning program.
“No one is giving us answers,” Aduddell said. “No one answers the phone there. The instructors were not notified and now we are having a hard time trying to get relief from the loans we have.”
Aduddell, 46, said she began the program in late August and was scheduled to finish in July. Aduddell said she took out about $13,000 in loans to attend the school and is wondering what happens next.
House said ATI officials have informed her they are trying to work out an arrangement with a community college that would allow students to transfer credits for the work they have done and complete their course work.
But if that effort fails, House said, “the federal government has very specific rules about repayment, refunding of loans and I've confirmed that there are provisions in place for forgiveness of debt when a school closes.”
“There are also provisions where any monies the actual student paid that didn't come through a loan situation would need to be refunded,” she said. “The only thing is some of these things take a while. We don't have every answer immediately for those HVAC and auto students, but it very definitely is still being worked on.”
House said she is working with ATI officials concerning where student records will be maintained.
There are also provisions where any monies the actual student paid that didn't come through a loan situation would need to be refunded. The only thing is some of these things take a while. We don't have every answer immediately for those HVAC and auto students, but it very definitely is still being worked on.”
Director of the Oklahoma Board of Private Vocational Schools