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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Students abandoned by closed for-profit colleges urge legislative action



Two former nursing students from Mattia College, the for-profit college that abruptly closed its South Florida campuses earlier this year, arrived in Tallahassee Wednesday to urge the Legislature to stop ignoring the plight of hundreds of students abandoned by the failed colleges.

"Ensure us that the same way we started is the way we should finish,'' said Edys Rosabel, 28, who had been enrolled at Mattia College for four months before it closed.

The Department of Education and the Commission for Independent Education, which regulates the for-profit college industry, are falling short of their responsibility, said Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, who was among the sponsors of HB 1053 and SB 800. 

That bill attempted to put in place a framework to protect students from fraudulent practices, improve graduation and accreditation rates and impose a follow-up plan when schools close. It passed all Senate committees and one House committee unanimously but the bill died when chairman of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, would not schedule a hearing on the bill.

"They are not doing anything for the students,'' Javier Rodriguez said. There have been no attempts at offering alternative programs to help students complete their degrees, no loan forgiveness programs and no sanctions on schools that allows students to complete a course of study in programs that require accreditation -- such as nursing -- but, because the schools lack the credentials, graduates can never become nurses.

"Why does the State of Florida permits for-profit colleges to matriculate students without proper safeguards and without being able to become nurses?'' he asked. "The only explanation is that the for-profit colleges lobby the state and Legislature and wield some influence in Tallahassee."

For Mimi Diaz, 53, who was just weeks from graduating a degree in nursing from Mattia College when the school closed, this is the second time she has been forced to start over because of the failure of a for-profit school.

After being laid off as an operations manager for an insurance company three years ago, she returned to school to pursue a nursing degree at Sanford Brown in Orlando. That school closed and she then moved to Miami where she attended Mattia College.

"I'm having to start over again for a third time,'' Diaz said. She said she is now considering switching her career path to pursue hospital management, even though she realizes there is a steady need for nurses in Florida.

"There is no exit plan,'' she said of the schools. "They have an entrance plan -- but no exit."

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 9, 2016 2:31pm]


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