On December 5, 2018, Birmingham, Alabama based Education Corporation of America (“ECA”), operator of scores of for-profit colleges across the United States, abruptly announced that it was ceasing operations at more than 70 of its campus locations in December 2018. The reasons cited for the closures included falling enrollment, financial concerns and loss of accreditation. ECA’s colleges and schools operate under names such as Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Virginia College, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America, and others.
The announcement apparently came without warning to the faculty and students at ECA’s campus locations, many of whom have expressed concern and dismay online. National and local media have compared the event to the 2016 closing of ITT Technical Institute. The adverse impact of ECA’s announcement hits close to home – the San Diego location of ECA’s Brightwood College is impacted by the announcement.
Haeggquist & Eck, LLP (“HAE”), long a champion of the rights of consumers and employees, is investigating whether ECA violated protections it owed to its staff, including federal and state laws requiring advance notice before mass layoffs or the closing of operations, and the rights of its students to receive the education they were promised. The resolution of the pre-holiday woes created by ECA’s abrupt announcement will not be immediate, and the manner in which the closings have been undertaken will no doubt create a hotbed of litigation issues for ECA.