Facing Collapse, For-Profit ASA College Makes Troubling Moves
Faced with the increasing likelihood that it will be forced to shut down, New York-based for-profit ASA College has left students in turmoil, providing confusing messages about transfer options, refusing to refund tuition, adding new charges to student bills, and seeming to recruit and enroll new students even as it appears likely they will not be able to complete their studies at the school. ASA also has been failing to pay employees on time, leading to repeated confrontations between faculty and the school’s controversial owner, Alex Shchegol.
Jacaly Muranelli, who lives just outside New York Ciity, enrolled in ASA’s criminal justice program this fall, just weeks before the school lost its accreditation. “I could never imagine,” she says, “that an institution of higher education could conduct itself so unprofessionally, with zero compassion toward students.” “I really wish, says Muranelli, “I had looked into for-profit colleges and how they operate” before enrolling. She added, “Once they lock you in, you no longer matter.”
Accreditor Middle States Commission on Higher Education withdrew ASA’s accreditation on November 11, effective March 1. In a letter to the school, Middle States cited, among other things, ASA’s alleged failure “to demonstrate that it can provide a quality student learning experience.” Middle States also told ASA that if it continued to recruit and enroll new students, accreditation could be revoked even sooner.
Unless Middle States’ decision is reversed on appeal, ASA will lose access to the federal student aid that has made up almost two-thirds of its revenue.
ASA, with campuses in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York, and Hialeah, Florida, has offered programs in nursing, health care, information technology, business, and criminal justice. It reported revenues in the 2020-21 academic year of $52 million, with $33.6 million of that total coming from federal taxpayers through student grants and loans.
Shchegol was forced out as the college president by his board three years ago amid allegations of egregious sexual misconduct. Last year, Shchegol ousted most of the school’s board members and regained control. But after the New York Daily News exposed the upheaval, and after Middle States last December placed the school on probation, Shchegol resigned again as president. He remains ASA College‘s owner. And some school employees say that, in fact, he has remained in charge of operations.
In October, ASA agreed to pay New York City $112,500 in penalties for deceptive ads, many seeming to target immigrants and visitors to the U.S., that were displayed on city subway cars this year. The ads, which began running in January, were exposed in a February Republic Report article, thanks to photos sent to us by subway riders, including staff of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), a non-profit legal services provider. NYLAG sued ASA in 2014, alleging that the school systemically defrauded students; the case was settled in 2016, with ASA promising to stop making false statements in recruiting.
On October 26, ASA president Jose Valencia told a Florida oversight panel that the school would shut down its Florida campus rather than seeking to renew its license to operate in that state.
On November 14, three days after Middle States announced the withdrawal of ASA’s accreditation, Valencia and Shchegol held a town hall Zoom meeting with faculty and staff. A participant in the call provided Republic Report with a recording of the meeting. It began with Valencia discussing the loss of accreditation. He said that when Middle States removed ASA from “show cause” status in June, the school leadership thought the school was back on track. He said ASA would be consulting lawyers and deciding whether to appeal.
Valencia told the faculty that ASA had stopped enrolling new students.
At that point in the meeting, Valencia said he would open the floor to faculty comments, but instead Shchegol took over, engaging in what one faculty member called “a rant.” Speaking for more than an hour, Shchegol claimed there were flaws in the Middle States decision, and said, “Obviously we will appeal.” He added, “It’s my decision. Not a board decision, it’s my decision, because I’m the one who has to pay for it.”
Shchegol told the faculty that he had worked very hard, around the clock, for 27 years. He said his efforts had been undercut by an accuser who has “looking for money” and “doesn’t care about your jobs.” He dismissed as “ridiculous” various sexual misconduct allegations — including a charge of rape and a separate claim of harassment by a 70-year-old employee with whom, he claimed, he had “an excellent relationship.”
Shchegol said he had spoken with another institution, which he did not name, that might take over ASA if the school’s appeal failed.
Eventually some faculty members lost patience with Shchegol’s monologue and began interrupting, asking when they would get paid. One said, why don’t you sell the school, just sell it? Then, the instructor said, the problem would be over. Shchegol insisted that the solution was “not that simple.”
He promised the staff back pay plus a 5 percent bonus. (Faculty have subsequently reported that no such bonuses have been provided.) He said that $2.6 million would be coming from the Department of Education by that Friday, a piece of the $4.8 million he said the Department owed the school that was delayed (because the Department had placed the school on restrictive HCM2 reimbursement status).
But Shchegol told faculty who argued with him that they were being “nasty” and “counterproductive.” Shouting back and forth ensued, an employee started sobbing, and the discussion became a free-for-all.
The Zoom confrontation alarmed a number of instructors.
In a November 19 letter to Valencia, ASA professor Eileen Merwin Ressler, who recently resigned from her job teaching writing there, pointed to a range of issues students at the school are facing. She expressed concern that, because Middle States did not terminate the school’s accreditation until ASA’s fall semester had begun, ASA students “are locked into paying for credits this semester that might not be accepted by other colleges.” She also alleged in the letter that ASA has “threatened” international students that they will lose F1 student visa status “unless they pay for the entire semester.” Ressler said that because ASA had not paid faculty for over a month, some instructors were reducing their efforts, so many students are getting “little or no instruction.” She wrote that students are dealing with “confusion, depression, despair and sense of betrayal.”
In an interview, Ressler described her experiences over 15 years at ASA: a student population that includes many single mothers, many Black and Latinx people, many immigrants still learning English. She said that when the school was accredited by ACICS, an accreditor of for-profit schools that eventually lost recognition from the U.S. Department of Education because of lax oversight, ASA was “more like a high school.” But when it gained the more prestigious approval of the regional accreditor Middle States, it improved. Credits became more easily transferable, and although many students dropped out, some did well and were able to continue their educations at more prestigious institutions, including New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Ressler said that some faculty had respected Shchegol, himself an immigrant from Ukraine, who seemed committed to helping other immigrants improve through education.
But the situation deteriorated as Shchegol’s personal controversies deepened.
“It was never really our school,” Ressler said. “It’s his. It’s Alex Shchegol’s.”
Jacaly Muranelli, the ASA criminal justice student, told me that ASA did not inform students of the Middle States action to end ASA’s accreditation, announced on November 11, until Valencia sent an email on November 16. Many students, she said, by then had learned that their school was losing accreditation from a November 13 article on Republic Report. Valencia’s email told students that ASA “is involved in the teach-out process with other colleges/universities so you could transfer to those institutions and be able to complete your study.” He attached an FAQ document that listed schools ASA represented as participating in the teach out: “Berkeley College (NY), Mandel College (NY), Albizu University (FL), Florida National University (FL), Helene Fuld School of Nursing (NJ).”
In a subsequent November 23 email to students, ASA vice president of operations Ksenia Kasimova warned students of the consequences of withdrawing from the school. She said she was “extremely sorry that you have been placed in this predicament with the current situation at ASA.” She told students that “it is your decision to transfer, but by dropping out now you are going to lose the credits you might have earned this semester transferable to other colleges since ASA has a regional accreditation. Also, if you withdraw now, you will still be liable for the whole semester tuition and fees (see ASA College Catalog, Tuition liability) Moreover, ASA has arranged for other colleges to accept your credits by program of study after the end of this semester. So, I would strongly advise you to complete this semester and receive the credits you have paid for and transfer to another college.”
Kasimova added that ASA had started the appeal process with Middle States.
But student confidence in ASA was further reduced when Muranelli and others found new fees on their accounts around November 17 — a $200 technology fee, an activity fee, student accident insurance. Muranelli called the new charges “ridiculous.” She asked, “What technology? We’re at home using our own tech. What ‘activity’? What accident — if we slip and fall in our homes?” There was, also, a new registration fee and a $10 charge for a student ID. When Muranelli finally got an ASA staffer on the phone to discuss the new fees, she was told they had something to do with COVID and the need for Zoom meetings.
For Muranelli, the new charges totaled $558, not an insignificant amount for the mother of a one-year-old son. She said her online statement now shows a balance of $3900, which seemed to be missing a credit for the federal student loan she had taken out.
Before enrolling at ASA, Muranelli had spent five years as an administrative supervisor at an immigration law firm, after working her way up from legal secretary. Her plan was to get an associates degree and then a bachelors in criminal justice, become a paralegal, and then, ultimately, apply to law school.
A cousin had attended ASA, and the concept made sense to Muranelli — get an associates degree in 16 months, not 24; study at home; have an easy commute to the Manhattan campus if she wanted in-person classes; maybe transfer to John Jay or another school for a bachelors.
But once she expressed interest in attending ASA, Muranelli found the school’s engagement with her concerning. “They were very aggressive about trying to get students to enroll. It seemed off — why would they text and call so much to make sure you showed up?”
“Everything” — from admissions and financial aid discussions, to enrollment and signing for a student loan — “was done in a day.” Muranelli was worried, but she says, “I had no experience,” so she decided to accept the process.
Then, she says, she heard nothing from the school until in mid-October “I got an email the night before classes were supposed to start saying they needed to postpone” until November 24. But then the schedule changed again, and classes started October 24.
The online classes, Muranelli said, were “professional,” if somewhat dull. But a few weeks later, she recalled, “the tone shifted.” Professors were not being paid, and some became “withdrawn.” That’s when she and others learned from professors that something was up, and they googled the article on this website explaining the withdrawal of accreditation.
After ASA finally told students, it held town hall Zooms for each of the main fields of study. Shchegol did not join, and Valencia, Muranelli says “was calm and composed,” but the meetings were messy anyway — a “shit show,” says Muranelli, who attended two of them, criminal justice and medical. Another ASA administrator on one of the calls, she says, was “disrespectful.” Participants asked, why did you enroll new students when you knew we were losing accreditation? The ASA representatives said they didn’t know Middle States would take that step.
Muranelli says she has tried and failed to have ASA designate an advisor to help her navigate the situation. “When you register, they call you and call you, but now, nothing.” No one answered the phone. She went to the Manhattan campus, only to find it shuttered.
When she finally got an ASA representative on the phone and asked a question about transcripts, the rep, who refused to give her name, asked Muranelli for her Social Security number so she could withdraw her. Muranelli declined, knowing that if she withdrew she would nevertheless owe the full amount for the semester.
“I feel like I was preyed on,” says Muranelli. “They took advantage of my insecurities and inexperience. They know who they target — immigrants, and students like myself who want to get done with a college course as soon as possible.”
Another ASA instructor, who is teaching online classes, reported to me on November 22 that a new student had just joined her class. On November 23, she attended an online meeting where an ASA official was pressing students to stay enrolled until the end of the semester, and pay all costs, saying the school would refuse to refund tuition. On November 29, the instructor reported that two new students had joined her class. On December 6, she reported another eight new students in her class. She says, “They all told me that they first registered, then paid for 10 weeks (till end of Feb when school closes), and only after that they were told that the school will be closing. As soon as they heard that, they said they wanted to leave and transfer out. They were told [by an ASA official with the title “international student advisor”] they had to finish the 10 weeks.” The instructor also reported students entering online classes to find that no teacher had shown up, and that ASA was rearranging class times at the last minute to address faculty changes.
Muranelli also reported there was a new student in her class last week.
Although ASA’s main web page now features a banner saying that the school currently “is not accepting new applications for enrollment,” there seem to be back channels for enrollment. ASA’s Instagram page has featured reels, posted after Middle States had noticed withdrawal of accreditation, recruiting new students. One reel, dated November 29, encourages people to enroll in the medical billing and coding program.
The reel links to an ASA page taking enrollee information.
Similar reels from November 25 and November 28 recruit for ASA’s certified nursing assistant and security guard program.
The nursing assistant page now states that ASA “is regionally accredited by the Commission of Higher Education.” A few days ago, these pages referenced “Middle States Commission of Higher Education”; now the words “Middle States” are gone, but the nursing assistant page still says the school is accredited (by the nonexistent “Commission of Higher Education”) without mentioning the withdrawal action.
For-profit schools have regularly enrolled students until just before announcing their closing. Often that last burst of federal financial aid dollars comes in handy as owners take a final “draw” out of the school bank account and other cash needs are addressed.
But if ASA is enrolling new students now, it is increasing the risk of an even more abrupt closure.
Middle States’s November 11 notice to ASA said that the school would remain accredited until March 1 “for the sole purpose of implementing the teach-out plan and teach-out agreements,” but it said accreditation would be withdrawn earlier if ASA did not meet the following conditions: “(1) the institution does not enroll new students, (2) the institution does not market or recruit new students, and (3) the institution maintains a clear and accurate statement about its accreditation phase and accreditation status for the public on its website…”
The Instagram posts and related landing pages alone indicate that ASA is in violation of these conditions.
There are other indications that Shchegol’s own management struggles persist.
In an appearance in October before the Florida Commission for Independent Education, ASA president Valencia had cited as one reason for ASA’s troubles with Middle States a new employee complaint regarding Shchegol.
That former employee, Meagen Rockenbach, reached out to me to tell me what happened.
She said she was hired in 2020 as an adjunct instructor to teach social media, but last year Shchegol recruited her to become the school’s director of digital marketing. She said Shchegol called her “at all hours” and “didn’t respect boundaries,” complaining and yelling when she sought time off. She also said Shchegol was harsh and abusive with a student hired to do tech work for the school, reducing the young man to tears. “The toll it took on me was horrible,” Rockenbach said, summing her experience with Shchegol.
Rockenbach also said that Shchegol directed her to run on Facebook the same deceptive subway ads that led to a New York City investigation and eventually a fine. Rockenbach refused. (Rockenbach also has spoken publicly about Shchegol and ASA with the New York outlet Documented.)
On October 2, Rockenbach contacted Middle States to complain about Shchegol’s behavior, that she had not been paid, and that Shchegol, who was supposed to have stepped back from running the school day to day, was in fact still in charge.
When Shchegol learned that Rockenbach had complained to the accreditor, he emailed her on November 21 at 12:45 am, with the subject line “WHY?” Copying Valencia and other ASA staff, Shchegol wrote, “WHY? Why did you do it? Why did you lie in all of your complain to Middle States? Why did you kill my college? Why did you make my family, my children and grandchildren miserable? Why did you kill the work of my entire life? Why did take away jobs from more than 600 people? Why did you take away college from more than 3,000 students?”
On December 2, NYLAG attorney Jessica Ranucci and her colleagues sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education documenting more troubling circumstances at ASA and calling on the Department to take action to defend students.
NYLAG’s letter asks the Department to clarify ASA students’ eligibility to obtain refunds under the Department’s “closed school discharge” rules — an alternative to accepting a “teach-out,” meaning transferring their studies to a different school. The letter charges that ASA is pressuring students to enroll quickly at other schools, including “at other for-profit schools with serious consumer protection problems,” for example, Berkeley College, which was sued by the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for false advertising. (We raised similar concerns when ASA suggested in October that some of its Florida students might be directed to Florida Technical College.)
Ranucci told me that, with ASA likely believing its days are numbered, “We are extremely concerned that they are trying to get as much money from students as possible, even if that money is not properly being accounted for, and if they shut down the students will not be able to recover that money.” In Ranucci’s experience it is very difficult for students to get any money back through the bankruptcy process, with numerous creditors typically vying for a small pot of remaining assets.
NYLAG has a hotline for current and former students of ASA’s New York campuses seeking free legal advice– phone: 212-659-6166; email: [email protected]. NYLAG says that more than 60 ASA students have contacted them seeking assistance “with more reaching out every day.”
ASA College has not responded to requests for comment.
UPDATE 12-12-22 11:00 am: ASA held an “emergency meeting” with students on December 11. In a follow-up email to students this morning, ASA Provost Edward Kufuor summarized the meeting: “For a while now, the president of ASA, Mr. Jose Valencia and I have been looking for a school which will be willing to accept all our students with all their credits in order for them to continue their studies. We found the Hilbert College which fits our mold. The president of the college wanted to meet the students, faculty, and staff to explain to them his plan in accomplishing that and that’s what the meeting was about.” Kufuor added, “I am very disappointed that some of the faculty members did not attend the meeting.” Hilbert is a Western New York state-based non-profit with online programs and on-campus programs. ASA students and others already have spoken with me with criticism of this move, noting that Hilbert programs are not a direct match for ASA’s.
New email to staff from ASA acting president Valencia:
First of all, Happy new year. 2023 will be better. it cannot get any worse. Let me respond to each of your items:
I would say HAPPY NEW YEAR but I see that it is not.
1. ASA College “DOES NOT HAVE FUNDING” for future payrolls beginning 01.03.2023?
What I said was that the owner of the school has not been able to secure funding. He believes that he will not in the near future. The only source of income we have is the $ from the USDOE. However, we are under HCM2. Therefore, we do not know when we will get the $.
2. Then we are expected to work for “FREE”?
No, WE are not expected to work for free. Our wages, if we decide to continue working, will continue to accrue.
3. We are being kept “HOSTAGE” in an “UNSAFE” environment!
No, we are not kept “hostage” in an unsafe environment. I do not what I would call the current environment at ASA. I would not call it a hostage situation
4. We have been told on numerous occasions that if we “Quit” we will not get unemployment.
I do not know who have told you such statement. If you quit, I have made a commitment to approve those who quit to obtain unemployment. 100% commitment.
5. So, if ASA College doesn’t have the money to pay our salaries, then ASA is justifiably saying I’m fired because theirs no money to pay my salary?
Absolutely incorrect. If you decide to quit, you will be eligible for unemployment. I will approve it.
6. Students are telling me that there refund checks are ” Bouncing”.
If you are referring to student checks, the answer is correct, There have been a few student checks that have not been cashed because of issues with the bank. We are trying to resolve it.
ASA College has given me Mental and Emotional Distress. Severe Economic and Financial Hardship. Therefore, how does ASA expect for us to continue working for FREE? I can’t even fuel my car to go to work, I will lose my license because I can’t pay my auto insurance because, I HAVE NO INCOME!
Miriam: I am truly sorry about what is happening at ASA. A number of us have been trying our best to try to get us out of this MESS. It is becoming more and more difficult. WE HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG.
So, ASA….tell me where did YOU go wrong!
While this question may sound very simplistic, the answer is much mre complicated. I will communicate to all of you and respond to this question.
VIRIS ADVERSIS REBUS (From Adversity, Strength)
Jose F. Valencia, CPA
ASA College, Inc.
Two more emails from Valencia to staff:
Sent: Thursday January 19
On Monday 1/16/23, I sent you an email stating that the funding for the 12/23/22 payroll would be forthcoming in time for the funds to be in your bank accounts by Tuesday 5:00 pm or at the latest by Wednesday morning. Alex has been meeting with a number of financing companies over the last three days. Financing agreements are not simple. They are rather complex. Obviously, it did not happen by my initial estimates.
I just spoke to Alex Shchegol. Alex strongly believes that he will have good news about the funding for the 12/23/22 payroll as early as tomorrow Thursday (1/19/23) or by Friday (1/20/23).
Using this opportunity, let me remind you. ASA college is fighting for its existence and started an appeal process with MSCHE. In my opinion, as well as our educational experts/consultants, any negative action against the college will result in the immediate closure of the college. If college is closed US Department of Education will not send us any money (approximately $25 millions they owe to us will be used to cover SCHOOL CLOSURE STUDENT LOANS DISCHARGE CLAIMS FROM CURRENT AND PREVIOUS STUDENTS), Alex Shchegol immediately will file for bankruptcy (protection from creditors including employees) and ASA college has no assets. In other words, any negative action against ASA will kill the only reliable source how we can get paid with the money we earned by educating and providing services to students.
As you know, ASA is strong College who helped tens of thousands of students to realize their American dream. As long as we are together, we will win this battle as well.
VIRIS ADVERSIS REBUS (From Adversity, Strength)
Jose F. Valencia, CPA
ASA College, Inc.
Sent: Friday, January 20, 2023 11:03 PM
Subject: Payroll Delays Update
On January 19, 2023, I sent you an email stating that Alex strongly believed that he was going to have good news about the funding for the 12/23/22 payroll as early as tomorrow Thursday (1/19/23) or by Friday (1/20/23). To be factual, Alex has been meeting with a number of financing companies over the last few days. Obtaining financing arrangements are not simple. They are rather complex. Obviously, it did not happen. Moreover, Alex now realizes that getting funding by obtaining additional loans is simply not possible at this time. Therefore, he has now concluded that staff can only be paid when ASA gets the third HCM2 payment from the USDOE. When will that happen? No one knows. It is entirely possible that the third HCM2 payment will not come until after 3/1/23.
Using this opportunity, let us remind you that ASA college is fighting for its very own existence. In my opinion, as well as our educational experts/consultants, any negative action against the college will result in immediate closure of the college. If the college is closed, the US Department of Education will not be providing us with any funding. The approximately $25 million they owe us will be used to cover school closure and student loans discharge claims from current and former students. If that were to happen, Alex Shchegol has advised ASA management and the Board of Trustees that he will file for bankruptcy (protection from creditors including employees). To make matters worse, ASA college has no assets. In other words, any negative action against ASA will likely kill the only reliable source of income.
Over the last couple of weeks, some staff members (including faculty and adjuncts) have decided not to teach or show up for work anymore. I do not blame you for making such a decision. Each of us will have to make such an individual decision. Let me remind you that, if you decide not to show up for work, you can apply for unemployment. ASA will not contest such a filing. In other words, ASA will honor such a request. However, if you decide to take such that option, you cannot continue to work for ASA while you are collecting unemploymnt. That is not an ASA practice. It is the law.
VIRIS ADVERSIS REBUS (From Adversity, Strength)
Jose F. Valencia, CPA
ASA College, Inc.
Lawyers have filed a class action lawsuit, with an ASA professor as the lead plaintiff, against the school for failure to pay the staff.
Hilbert College, a non-profit school that ASA officials had suggested would take ASA students as transfers, and at one point suggested might actually acquire ASA, announced it would acquire a different for-profit school, Valley College, which has campuses in West Virginia and Ohio.
At this morning’s meeting of the Florida Commission for Independent Education, ASA’s consultant Ilia Matos, a former CIE commissioner, said the school had signed teach-out agreements with two Florida schools, United International College and Florida Memorial University, and a partnership with Florida International University. CIE accepted ASA’s progress report and ordered the school to report again at its next meeting.
Early this morning ASA College’s owner Alex Shchegol sent the school’s staff a long email. In it, he promised staff would receive pay for the last pay period of 2022: “I was able to secure funds to cover the 12/23/22 payroll and it’s 100% you will see money in your bank accounts no later than Wednesday or Thursday this week.” He said the school had “a solid case” for its appeal to accreditor Middle States. He expressed concern for the consequences students would face if ASA closed. “WE ARE FACING A HUMAN TRAGEDY. So many people depend on us,” Shchegol wrote. He then offered a history of the school and stressed his commitment to student success. “MY QUESTION,” he wrote, “IS WHY MSCHE [Middle States] KILLED OUR COLLEGE IN JUST SHORT 5 WEEKS WHICH BEFORE THEY PRAISED AS EXEMPLARY 2 YEARS DEGREE COLLEGE IN THIS COUNTRY?
Addressing one of the allegations of misconduct against him, he wrote, “A technical error was used against me in an email sent to Irina Mokova (a 70 years old woman at that time). She claimed a sexual harassment. Victoria Kostukov coached Irina how to claim sexual harassment and sent her to a friend Russian speaking Erica Shnyder at Philips law firm. Later on Victoria found and couched other women and sent them to the same law firm. I became a victim of people who wanted to make easy money. They did not reckon with anything, neither with the fate of the college, nor with the fate of 900 college employees and about 6 thousand students.”
Accreditor Middle States has announced the following January 27 action:
“To postpone a decision on the teach out plan because the additional information recently requested and received on January 24, 2023, remains under review. To note the institution’s leadership and governing board have failed to provide timely responses and meet required due dates. To approve the following teach-out agreements to assist with the implementation of the teach-out: (1) Berkeley College (New York), New York, NY, for the following programs: Business Administration (AAS); Criminal Justice (AAS); Paralegal Studies (AAS); (2) Helene Fuld College of Nursing, New York, NY, for the following program: Nursing (AAS); (3) Metropolitan College of New York, New York, NY, for the following programs: Business Administration (AAS); Criminal Justice (AAS); Health Information Technology (AAS); Health Information Technology (AAS); and (4) Touro University, New York, NY, for the following programs: Business Administration (AAS); Office Technology and Administration (Certificate); Computer Programming and Information Technology (AOS); Network Administration and Security (AOS); Computer Support Specialist (Certificate); Paralegal Studies (AAS). To postpone a decision on the following teach-out agreements because information was insufficient, and the Commission needs to verify information recently received: (1) Florida Memorial University, Miami Gardens, FL.; (2) United International College, Miramar, FL; (3) Keiser University, Fort Lauderdale, FL; and (4) Southeastern University, Lakeland, FL. To remind the institution of its obligation to submit signed teach-out agreements as soon as they become available and to facilitate the transfer of students in a timely manner. To remind the institution and its governing body of its obligation to be responsive to Commission requests and meet due dates for information. To remind the institution and its governing body of its obligation to inform the Commission immediately about any and all significant developments relevant to this action and to make freely available to the Commission accurate, fair, and complete information on all aspects of the institution and its operations to all constituents. To remind the institution of its obligation to inform the Commission of its status with local, state, and federal agencies and other relevant agencies, including programmatic accreditors. To note the Commission will take action on the teach-out plan and remaining teach-out agreements as soon as additional information received is verified.”
Middle States also has posted an FAQ, which finds fault with ASA in several respects. It also provides this update: “Now that the Commission has received ASA College’s Notice of Intent to Appeal, accreditation will continue until the appeal decision. We anticipate the appeal decision at the end of April 2023.”
Middle States posted on its website this week that ASA is closing February 24 and that the closure terminates ASA’s appeal of its loss of accreditation. A spokesperson for the accreditor told the publication Higher Ed Dive that ASA notified Middle States at the end of January that the school planned to close. However, ASA emailed a statement to Higher Ed Dive saying it does not intend to close and will proceed with its appeal.
ASA closed its doors on February 24. Middle States noted the closure that day, and said the closure was “without prior approval and without an approved teach-out plan.” Higher Ed Dive reported that day, citing Middle States as its source, that various teach-out efforts by ASA fell through or were rejected by the accreditor. Middle States said its accreditation of ASA College will end on March 1, 2023. NYLAG continues to offer assistance to ASA students.
In an email to staff dated February 24, ASA interim president Valencia writes, “We are in the process of initiating some legal process to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to prevent MSCHE from closing our institution. We should know the results of this legal process in the next few business days.”
I’m trying to find out if ASA actually sought a TRO. MSCHE can’t “close” a school. It can only end its accreditation.
At today’s meeting of the Department of Education’s advisory committee (NACIQI) overseeing accreditors, Middle States, asked about its handling of ASA, said they took “unprecedented action,” meeting with teach-out partners, evaluating teach-out plans, posting FAQs, conducting outreach to oversight agencies to give them better information than what ASA provided. But a Middle States official said the agency was limited in discussing ASA because of possible litigation.
In the public comments section of NACIQI’s consideration of Middle States, Alex Shchegol appeared. I was on another call and couldn’t listen, but from the closed captioning I saw he was explaining the history of ASA but, like all commenters, he was limited to three minutes so he couldn’t get far. I will get details from someone about what he said. Middle States, at the meeting, chose not to provide a response to Shchegol’s comment.
Here is the transcript of Alex Shchegol’s comments at the March 1, 2023 , NACIQI meeting:
CHAIR PRESSNELL: Dr. Vogelaar? Yeah, thank you very much for your comments. Appreciate it. All right. Alex Shchegol from Asa College? You’re muted. There we go.
A. SHCHEGOL: Can you hear me? I’m not sure. CHAIR PRESSNELL: Yes. Yes, you may begin. A. SHCHEGOL: Okay. Thank you very much.
And well, I know I have three minutes, so I’m going to be very quick. I came with my parents in 1977, $100.00 in the pocket, and I was attending — I came with a master’s degree in engineering, and I was going to a local synagogue, and the Rabbi asked me to help immigrants from former Soviet Union, to help them with — to help them to find a job in computer programming.
So I was taking them, prepare them, all of them got the job. I found them a job, and I continued that for another maybe seven to eight years working with people who attended that synagogue. And then in 1985 I was able to get a business license for the school, and we opened the school, and it was called Advanced Analysis, and I was working there at the same time as the computer program consultant.
But then I started to work for the school, school got its accreditation from ACSGS. Three years later in 1987, and we were for a number of years an institution with ACSGS. We got the Middle States accreditation in 2010. In 2015 we were extremely very well accredited.
Dr. Robert Clark was in charge of that. I think we were called exemplary college for United States. They asked us to do a presentation on community colleges in there, and Middle States annual conferences to teach others how do we teach students, how do we assure that students are successful?
Okay. I came from Soviet Union, and Soviet Union was you graduate from a college it’s 100 percent you get a good job. So, for me it was absolutely necessary if anyone coming to our school, they have to get a job. That was the mission of our college.
We had a short population, which is 82 percent minority student population. And —
CHAIR PRESSNELL: Mr. Shchegol you’re out of time, but I do appreciate your comments very much. Thank you sir.
A. SHCHEGOL: All right. Thank you.