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RI Delegation Urges Education Secretary to Protect Financial Aid for Sawyer School Students

Providence, RI – Last weekend the Sawyer Schools in Pawtucket and Providence were closed without warning, forcing students to make new plans for their education, and leaving many unanswered questions.  Now, Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation is asking U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to ensure that students affected by the closure do not lose access to federal financial aid.

In a letter to Secretary Duncan, the delegation urged him to “use every possible measure to ensure that these students continue to receive federal financial aid at the accredited institution to which they transfer and to stop the flow of federal funds to the Sawyer School immediately.”

“Rhode Island students deserve better, and we will stand with them during this difficult time to help ensure that they continue to receive the federal financial aid they are entitled to,” U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline said today in a statement.

The Sawyer School was a for-profit school that offered certificates in office information systems and medical administration.  It is being investigated by the Rhode Island Attorney General and the State Police in the wake of the closures.

The full text of the letter is below.

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January 3, 2013

The Honorable Arne Duncan

Secretary

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20202

Dear Secretary Duncan:

We write to ask for your prompt assistance for the 302 Rhode Island students of the recently closed campuses of the Sawyer School in Pawtucket and Providence, Rhode Island, which is owned by Academic Enterprises, Inc.  The school’s students were informed of the immediate closing of the school on December 31, 2012 via a brief letter.  No information has been provided about the status of Pell Grants and/or other federal grants and student loans used to finance their studies at the Sawyer Schools.  As a result, the ability of these students to continue with their education at another institution is in jeopardy. The Rhode Island State Police and Attorney General are investigating the matter.

Rhode Island law requires that proprietary colleges provide a “teach-out plan” in the case of closure, including an agreement with another institution of higher education to absorb displaced students.  In the case of the Sawyer School, that agreement was with Lincoln Technical Institute in Lincoln, Rhode Island.  It is our understanding that the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) will also try to accommodate some of these students.  Even if these schools are able to accommodate Sawyer’s students, these students will need to be able to access federal loans and grants to enroll.  We are concerned that Academic Enterprises’ sudden closing will impede the transfer of federal financial aid, preventing the students from continuing their education in a timely manner and possibly causing them to be in debt for education they have not received.

We urge you to use every possible measure to ensure that these students continue to receive federal financial aid at the accredited institution to which they transfer and to stop the flow of federal funds to the Sawyer School immediately.  We ask that you work with Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education to track these funds and manage the quick placement of these students.  We are eager to work with you to help these students continue their education despite the irresponsible actions of Academic Enterprises, Inc. 

Sincerely,

U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse

U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline

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