Veterinary technology programs hit by turmoil at for-profits

Accreditation revocation, federal aid denial among the issues
Published on
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

Symptomatic of larger problems in the for-profit education industry, 11 more veterinary technology programs have had their accreditation withdrawn by the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities since its last meeting, Nov. 3-6, 2016, in Schaumburg, Illinois. That brings the total number of AVMA CVTEA–accredited programs to 218, down from a peak of 229 a year ago.

Assignment of an "accreditation withdrawn" classification means that enrolled students are not protected from the disadvantage of graduating from a nonaccredited program, according to the committee's accreditation policies and procedures manual. Students who graduate after the effective date that a program's accreditation has been withdrawn will not be considered graduates of an AVMA CVTEA–accredited program.

Sanford-Brown College commercial screen shot
A screen shot from a commercial by Sanford-Brown College for its veterinary technology program; the for-profit entity announced in August 2015 that it would cease enrolling students and close all its schools while undergoing a teach-out. It had 12 veterinary technology programs in eight states; now, all of them have had their accreditation withdrawn. (Courtesy of Sanford-Brown College)

Since 2014, 32 programs accredited by the CVTEA have had their accreditation withdrawn. More than half these withdrawals occurred in 2016, and all were caused by program closures. The CVTEA has a process outlined for programs that voluntarily close. Specifically, programs on "terminal accreditation" must place a moratorium on new enrollment. In addition, all standards must continue to be met during the closing phase of the program. More information is available here.

For-profits in decline

Most veterinary technology programs that have closed as of late were operated by for-profit institutions. These entities have faced steep enrollment declines, largely because of the improving economy but also because of new regulations and government pressure.

For example, federal regulations that went in effect July 1, 2015, stipulate that, to qualify for Title IV federal student financial aid programs such as Federal Direct and Perkins loans, degree-granting for-profits must prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” A program would be considered to lead to gainful employment if the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate were not to exceed 8 percent of the graduate’s total earnings or 20 percent of discretionary income.

Not long after, in August 2015, Sanford-Brown College, a for-profit entity, announced it would cease enrolling students and close all its schools while undergoing a teach-out. Through that, students can finish their programs or receive assistance transferring to other programs while the college ceases new enrollments.

Sanford-Brown had 12 veterinary technology programs in eight states; now, all of them have had their accreditation withdrawn. “We made the difficult decision to teach out all of our other Sanford-Brown campus locations after several years of declining enrollment and financial losses,” a company statement said.

Then, Heritage College made news when it closed abruptly this past fall. Founded in 1986, the for-profit institution had four campuses that provided training in veterinary technology. Heritage College’s website, posted a statement that reads as follows: “The reason for the campus closures is that Heritage does not have the cash to continue to run its business. Numerous factors contributed to the circumstances, including declining student population and a continued, decreased demand for the services of for-profit schools. Heritage did not close due to wrongdoing or a forced closure by a regulatory body, and we did explore a range of options that would have enabled the campuses to remain open serving students. Unfortunately, the options were not viable and our efforts proved unsuccessful.”

Heritage College in Oklahoma City
Heritage College closed abruptly this past fall. The for-profit institution had four campuses that provided training in veterinary technology, including one in Oklahoma City (pictured). (Courtesy of Google Maps)

It wasn’t clear how many veterinary technology students were enrolled at Heritage when it closed.

More recently, Globe Education Network—which operates Globe University, Minnesota School of Business, and Broadview University—has run into legal trouble that has made it difficult for its institutions in Minnesota to stay open.

Following a lawsuit filed by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson in 2014, a Minnesota court issued an order in September 2016 finding that Globe University and Minnesota School of Business defrauded students and used deceptive trade practices by misrepresenting the job opportunities available to their criminal justice graduates. The fraud ruling set off a chain of events that resulted in the Minnesota Office of Higher Education revoking the schools’ ability to operate in the state, state and federal bans on enrolling new students, and rejection of the schools’ request to continue to participate in federal financial aid programs as of Dec. 31, 2016. The last decision, announced Dec. 6, 2016, by the U.S. Department of Education, means students at both schools will no longer qualify for federal aid such as Pell Grants or Direct Loans.

A statement posted Dec. 20, 2016, on the institutions’ shared website announced the closure of the Minnesota campuses, offered ways students can transfer credits to other colleges, and stated that Broadview University will take over administration of campuses in South Dakota and Wisconsin.

“We want to be clear that the findings from the Hennepin County Court case with the Minnesota Attorney General showed no widespread systemic fraud and no issues with the education we provide. We want you all to know the facts and to know that we are fighting to not have the schools close,” the statement reads. “While we work through this challenging time, we are working to find pathways for our students. It is our goal to make sure students have options to complete their degree with us or transfer credits to another accredited institution.”

Globe University vet tech promotional video screen shot
A screen shot from a promotional video by Globe University for its veterinary technology program in Appleton, Wisconsin. Globe University and Minnesota School of Business, both owned by the for-profit Globe Education Network, had 19 campuses in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin that enrolled more than 4,500 students, according to 2015 federal data. But after facing—and eventually losing—a fraud trial last year, the schools have been forced to close their Minnesota campuses and consolidate others. (Courtesy of Globe University)

The Globe Education Network had been operating 21 CVTEA-accredited programs. But seven of the network’s programs had their accreditation withdrawn in 2016 for voluntary closure (see JAVMA, Sept. 1, 2016). Thirteen are no longer enrolling students but remain accredited at various levels. The only one still accepting students is Broadview University in West Jordan, Utah.

Accreditor no longer recognized

Part of the problem is that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Universities, which accredits a number of Globe Education Network institutions along with other for-profit entities, just had its authority revoked by the federal government. The USDE announced Dec. 12, 2016, that the secretary of education made a final decision to withdraw recognition of the ACICS, effective immediately. That decision is also being challenged.

Through a provisional program participation agreement, the USDE did provide an avenue by which institutions may continue to receive Title IV funding; however, the CVTEA may not consider this status as equivalent to USDE recognition of institutional accreditation. According to the CVTEA's fall 2016/winter 2017 newsletter, "Approximately 26 AVMA CVTEA veterinary technology programs have institutional accreditation by ACICS.

“The CVTEA recognizes that institutions may be pursuing institutional accreditation with other accrediting agencies recognized by the USDE and that the process of transition may take a significant amount of time. However, the CVTEA will be reviewing and assessing all programs with ACICS accreditation at its April 20 -23 meeting."

New CVTEA protocol

In light of all these events, the CVTEA approved a protocol for programs to report substantive changes. Effective Jan. 1, the CVTEA now requires preapproval for certain circumstances, including the following:

  • Changes in the legal status, form of control, or ownership of the parent college.
  • Changes in courses that represent a substantial departure in either content or method of delivery.
  • Changes in the name of a degree or the addition of any degree or credential level offered.
  • Changes in the number of clock hours (student contact hours) required for degree completion.
  • Changes of 10 percent or more in the number of credit hours required for degree completion.
  • Increases of 10 percent or more in the program's maximum student enrollment capacity.
  • Changes in the number of cohorts admitted each academic year.

In addition, the committee changed the time frame for reporting other substantive changes from 60 days to within 30 days of implementation.

The AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities met Nov. 3-6, 2016, in Schaumburg, Illinois, and voted to withdraw accreditation from the following programs:

  • Anthem College, Phoenix, effective Dec. 1, 2016.
  • Broadview University, Orem, Utah, effective Nov. 6, 2016.
  • Heritage College, Fort Myers, Florida, effective Dec. 1, 2016.
  • Heritage College, Little Rock, Arkansas, effective Dec. 1, 2016.
  • Heritage College, Oklahoma City, effective Dec. 1, 2016.
  • Heritage College, Wichita, Kansas, effective Dec. 1, 2016.
  • Minnesota School of Business, Plymouth, Minnesota, effective Nov. 6, 2016.
  • Sanford-Brown College, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, effective Nov. 6, 2016.
  • Sanford-Brown College, Jacksonville, Florida, effective Nov. 6, 2016.
  • Sanford-Brown College, Melville, New York, effective Nov. 6, 2016.
  • Sanford-Brown College, Tampa, Florida, effective Nov. 6, 2016.

To view the complete list of AVMA CVTEA–accredited veterinary technology programs, visit here.

Related JAVMA content:

For-profit veterinary technology programs continue to close (Sept. 1, 2016)

The profit margin (June 15, 2015)

Closures come amid troubles at for-profits (June 15, 2015)