MERIDIAN -- Teachers and students at a paramedics school are expressing shock after it abruptly closed, putting the future of its students and their thousands of dollars in fees in limbo.
While Guardian College was called a college, it was actually a proprietary school, which couldn't grant degrees but could offer training and certificates. With that, students could then take a licensure test to become a paramedic.
That's what nine students like Taylor Burkhardt were doing when they learned about a week and a half ago that the school was closing just a few days later, on March 25. I was dumbfounded. I was shocked, completely.
Burkhardt says it cost him about $16,000 to be a part of their program. This was the next step toward my dream job.
But now he's going to have to figure out a new step.
Stacey Beaumont was the EMS Program Director at Guardian College. I was floored, totally floored. On top of the shocking news for the students, there were 20-plus employees and instructors who lost their jobs.
Guardian's President, Loralei Sterkie, says the big reason she had to close the school was changes to student loans under the Affordable Care Act, which made it unprofitable.
The Affordable Care Act includes student loan legislative recommendations, which, along with other laws, created a new student loan repayment system and eliminated the Economic Hardship Deferment for these types of students, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Sterkie admits there were many factors. She says her priority now, just like the staff's, is to get these students to the end of a paramedics program somehow.
I've been working with my clinical coordinator and the other instructors to find some sort of a solution so we can salvage our students' education, said Beaumont.
Three students were already involved in internships and Beaumont says they can finish out. But the other six were seven weeks from finishing their classes and starting their clinicals and internships. The best option for them is to be absorbed into another program. But finding another program willing to take them is tough.
Burkhardt says that's what he and the other students want. My number one priority at this point is finishing the course. My time is worth more than the money that we've spent. I don't want to lose eight months.
Officials with the State Board of Education say while they know everyone wants answers right now, they are stressing patience. They have certain guidelines any school like this must follow, if they're closing. They say right now it looks like Guardian is following those guidelines.
One guideline is, if students can't be absorbed into other programs, a refund of their money is required. Also, any student that had paid, and hadn't started the program, gets a full refund. But again, the students we talked to, just want to finish the program and become paramedics.