Dive Brief: 

  • ASA College, a troubled for-profit college headquartered in New York, says it does not intend to close even though its accreditor said it received notice from the institution that it plans to shutter Feb. 24, its last day of the semester. 
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education, or MSCHE, announced last year that it would yank ASA College’s accreditation by March because the institution was unable to comply with the agency’s standards. ASA College told the accreditor it planned to appeal the decision, but MSCHE voided the appeal due to the college’s upcoming closure. 
  • An MSCHE spokesperson said ASA College notified the accreditor about its planned closure at the end of January. ASA College, however, said in an emailed statement Tuesday that it does not intend to close and plans to “go through an appeal process, which is within the College’s rights.” 

Dive Insight: 

ASA College told MSCHE that it has provided appropriate disclosures to students, including through its website, according to an FAQ provided by the accreditor. However, MSCHE hasn’t been able to verify what information the college has given to students and has required it to “post appropriate public disclosures on the homepage of its websites.”

“After repeated reminders to ASA College, the website continues to reflect insufficient information for students,” the FAQ reads. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, ASA College’s website says it is not accepting new applications. Higher Ed Dive could not find a notice about the institution’s closure on the site, although a site listing its accreditations does note that MSCHE recently withdrew accreditation, effective March 1, and says the college is subsequently putting in place a teach-out plan. 

The FAQ also says that ASA College notified employees of layoffs effective Jan. 24. However, Cristhian Mancera Mejía, an attorney working in the college’s legal studies department, said Tuesday that neither he nor other employees he knows have received such notices. 

Mancera Mejía also said ASA College has not sent him any formal notifications about closing. 

ASA College has found itself in hot water with its employees. One of them, Ernest Andrade-Barteldes, filed a class-action lawsuit against the college in January, accusing it of withholding and delaying wages. 

The complaint says employees had their wages delayed throughout last year, and that they haven’t received payment for pay periods ending in late December and early January — causing employees to be unable to pay their bills. 

Mancera Mejía, who is not part of the lawsuit, said he likewise hasn’t received a handful of paychecks and that his latest payment from ASA College had come about six weeks late. Officials have told employees that they are seeking out high-interest loans to cover employee salaries while the institution’s federal funding is restricted, according to Mancera Mejía. 

“We do have colleagues that literally are like living off either their savings or they’re going through really tough times,” Mancera Mejía said. 

He called out the U.S. Department of Education’s recent actions against ASA College, accusing the agency of contributing to financial issues that ultimately have affected the faculty and staff who rely on their paychecks from the institution. 

The Education Department placed restrictions on ASA College’s access to federal financial aid in early 2022 due to problems with its accreditation. The agency placed the institution on Heightened Cash Monitoring 2, a status that requires the college to dole out federal financial aid from its own reserves before asking the federal agency for reimbursement. 

This restriction can have huge impacts on colleges that depend on federal financial aid. That’s the case for ASA College, which relied on this source of funding for $33.6 million in 2020 — accounting for nearly two-thirds of the institution’s revenue that year. 

“Most people have been suffering, especially people that depended only on that salary to survive,” Mancera Mejía said. “I don’t think that much attention has been paid to that — both by the media and the supervising agencies.”

However, the Education Department’s restrictions haven’t been ASA College’s only budgetary setback. 

In October, ASA College agreed to pay almost $113,000 in civil penalties to New York City’s consumer protection unit for running misleading ads targeting immigrants and low-income people. The settlement was a part of a long string of scandals at the institution, including sexual misconduct allegations against the founder of ASA College, who resigned from the role of president in December 2021 for the second time.