For Students of Closed Sawyer Schools, a Chance for a New Start

Photograph by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The sudden closing of five schools in December, including a for-profit Connecticut business school, may soon have a happy ending for some of the 1,500 students who had their education disrupted. More than 300 students from the shuttered Sawyer schools in Rhode Island will have a chance to find new schools on Thursday, Jan. 17.

Eight schools that have agreed to take in students will be hosting a “transfer fair” from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Providence campus of the Community College of Rhode Island, said Mike Trainor, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education. Students will be reunited with their transcripts and have an opportunity to submit applications to the participating schools and meet with financial aid specialists.

In Connecticut, the state Office of Higher Education is planning similar fairs for students from the Butler Business School in Bridgeport and the Sawyer schools in that state, according to a notice on the OHE website. A call to the office on Wednesday was not returned.

Four Sawyer schools in Connecticut and Rhode Island, along with the Butler school, closed suddenly on Dec. 30. All the schools are owned by a Rhode Island company, Academic Enterprises. Representatives of the company could not be reached for comment.

The closures came after the schools lost millions in federal student aid as the result of a steep drop in enrollment. The reason for the drop is unclear, but new federal regulations that took effect on July 1 require newly enrolled students to have a high school diploma or GED.

The schools have been stripped of their accreditation and there are ongoing investigations by the state police, FBI, and U.S. Department of Education, Trainor said.

The eight schools participating in the fair include the New England Institute of Technology, Rhode Island College, and Lincoln Technical Institute.

“Among the eight schools there’s capacity to take all 302 students, but each school has its own criteria,” Trainor said. “It’s as much as we can do.”

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