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Vista College closes abruptly in El Paso, Las Cruces amid financial woes, stuns students

EL PASO, Texas -- Vista College, a private, for-profit trade college with campuses in El Paso and Las Cruces, abruptly closed its doors Friday citing financial problems.

"Although we are in compliance with both accreditation and state/federal regulations, we are unable to continue due to financial circumstances," the college in a message sent to students announcing the closure, a copy of which was obtained by ABC-7. Doors were locked at the school's main campus in El Paso and efforts to reach administrators for comment were unsuccessful.

Students indicated they were caught off guard by the sudden shutdown of the college and received no advance warning of the financial concerns cited by the school.

"It's devastating. It's frustrating," said Alexis Tiffany Silva as she wiped tears from her eyes. The Las Cruces student and single mom had 22 weeks left to receive a Licensed Practical Nurse certification. "We all have families, we have lives, we have kids.... We have sick kids. We're in this, you know, trying to do better for ourselves and… it's frustrating," she said.

According to an online profile assembled by U.S. News & World Report, Vista College in El Paso has an enrollment of approximately 3,500 students and offers associate degrees in eight different career fields including healthcare, construction, business and technology. Its annual student tuition and fees total an estimated $15,680, but some degrees such as Business Administration Associate may run close to $40,000, according to the school's catalog.

"We are working diligently to assist our students in transferring to other colleges and schools so they may complete their degrees," read Vista College's message sent to students, but it provided no guidance for them to follow to obtain either transcripts or refunds.

Ben Arriola, president and CEO of Southwest University, told ABC-7 that his institution would make every effort to work with Vista College students and were currently reviewing transcripts to ensure credits could be transferred for Nursing, Allied Health and Business Management courses. Vista students can reach Southwest University by calling 915-778-4001 or going online to southwestuniversity.edu.

Vista College showed potential signs of trouble when it suspended in-person enrollment and had a round of layoffs in August. KBTX-TV in College Station reported the college furloughed employees across all Texas campuses, which included locations in the Borderland, Beaumont, Longview and Killeen.

"The reason we did that is to make sure we had all the financial resources at our disposal to make sure the students currently enrolled in school get exactly what they paid for," Vista College President and CEO Jim Tolbert, who is not from El Paso, told KBTX at the time.

In addition, just this week Vista College was one of 70 private colleges put on notice by the Federal Trade Commission that the agency would crack down on false promises made about job and earning prospects for prospective graduates.

Article Topic Follows: Education

Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

JC Navarrete

El Paso native JC Navarrete co-anchors ABC-7’s weekend newscasts and reports during the week.

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