Vista College ceased operations at two locations in El Paso and five more in Texas and Arkansas on Friday, October 8, and then filed for silent Chapter 7 bankruptcy the following Monday.
The simple bankruptcy petition was filed in Delaware, where the for-profit educational chain owner Computer Career Center LP was founded decades ago. It says little about the company’s finances, but for two boxes checked, assets and liabilities are estimated at $ 10 million to $ 50 million.
When a company applies for Chapter 7, it usually results in liquidation and the company does not come back.
The closure came as a terrible surprise to the faculty, staff and students of the private college on the main campus in El Paso and Las Cruces, who faced locked doors this Friday.
But for some on campuses hundreds of miles east in Killeen, Longview, College Station and Beaumont, Texas, and Fort Smith, Arkansas, the announcement may have been more like a dreaded second shoe drop than a total surprise.
That’s because the college’s founder, owner, and CEO, Jim Tolbert, told a Bryan television reporter in August that he’d suspended personal enrollment at all locations and started taking employees off.
He promised that students already enrolled would get “exactly what they paid for” and complete their education.
The October 8 announcement that Tolbert sent in text messages and emails to the students and faculty at Vista College on October 8 was less encouraging.
“Although we are in compliance with both accreditation and state / federal regulations, we cannot continue for financial reasons,” the statement said. “We apologize for the sudden notification, but due to unforeseen events we were not able to continue the new term of office on October 11, nor could we continue the ongoing maintenance period.
“We are aware of the challenges this poses for students and have worked to identify potential transfer colleges and schools to complete their degrees. Please monitor the Vista College website, www.vistacollege.edu, as we will publish important information on the website. “
Last Friday, however, the outdated Vista website happily bragged about the great opportunities for Vista College students, but said nothing about the closure or how the students would get their tuition back for the coming semester, pay off student loans, and save the time invested.
The website also doesn’t say whether students who completed coursework and certificate theses on October 7th will actually receive these credentials.
El Paso Inc. repeatedly tried unsuccessfully to contact someone at the Vista executive level, particularly Mike Linzmaier, Senior Vice President of Academics, via email, phone, cell phone, and text message.
It has been a long fall for Tolbert’s Vista College empire, likely mainly due to the ups and downs, closings, and cautious reopenings at its sites to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In contrast, their 2017 El Paso class graduation brochure included the names of 550 graduates and listed 73 faculty members and 149 staff involved in Vista’s 11 educational programs, including medical, construction, criminal justice, business, Nursing and HVAC programs.
In the months since Vista College was able to complete precautionary distance learning and reopen its campus to live night classes in 6101 Montana and 5919 Brookhollow, class sizes have declined. Students who signed up for live online courses were called back to campus in June.
“When I started they told me I could do the paralegal program online and then sent us back to school,” said Teresa Trinh, 23, who started a petition against the change. “It was an inconvenience because I was working and I couldn’t go to class every day and still work.
“But they didn’t care about working with our schedules or whether you had kids or a job.”
Despite leaving Vista College before it closed, Trinh is confident that she will get her money back as she and others have been told that they will be taking their courses online.
But the time she and other students invested in professional training cannot be refunded.