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Fort Smith Vista College closes, students uncertain about their future

The Fort Smith trade school abruptly closed its doors after 30 years of business with students saying they were given no warning.

FORT SMITH, Ark — Fort Smith students say they were shocked after Vista College- Fort Smith shutdown days before the first day of class.

5NEWS reached out to the school for a comment. However, we were not able to reach them as their doors were locked and their phone lines were disconnected.

Students, faculty, and staff found out about the school closing on Friday, Oct. 8.

In an email sent to students, the school says it is closing due to financial reasons.

“Vista College has made the difficult decision to cease all operations effective with the close of Business on October 8th, 2021. Although we are in compliance with both accreditation and state/federal regulations we are unable to continue due to financial circumstances," the Vista College letter to students read. 

“I’m just very frustrated and at a loss,” said Barbra Gourd-Shaw, former nursing student at Vista College.

According to the school’s website, it offered degrees to students in healthcare, business, and technology.

Some students say they knew the school would be closing soon. However, they say the school promised them they would stay open until students were able to get their degrees. Now, students say they are left with an uncertain future.

“I’m just really frustrated and at a loss because I don’t know exactly what to do from here,” Gourd-Shaw said. “I want my degree, I worked hard for it. I was right there at the end and now I can’t get it.”

The school asked students to periodically check in with its website for updates. The school also told students it's working to make sure students' credits transfer over to other colleges.

“We realize the challenges this causes for students and we have been working to identify potential transfer colleges and schools to complete your degrees,” Vista College wrote to students in an email.

However, some students are saying they can’t contact the school to get things such as transcripts.

Students are now worried about finances after getting Pell grants and taking students loans to pay for classes.

“I was set up on a payment plan of $50 a month,” Gourd-Shaw said. “So, I’m out all this money.”

According to the letter sent to students by the school, some students will be eligible for a 100% discharge of certain loans due to the closing. The college is asking everyone to apply for this loan forgiveness program.

Our Tegna partners at KCEN in Texas report four other Vista College campuses closed their doors recently.

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