SILVER SPRING, Md., (WUSA) -- "This is actually the DVD portfolio I was working on."
Michael Liska was confident the classes at the American Career Institute were just what he needed t land a job in the digital media.
"The program was actually fast-paced, but it covered everything that I wanted to learn," Liska says.'
He worked hard, maintained a 4.0 GPA, and locked forward to graduating this August. But his dreams were crushed with one unexpected call.
"My teacher called me on Wednesday and he said the school is closed," he says.
It was January 9th of this year, when ACI posted a letter on the door that says they regrettably had to close the school for financial reasons.
Michael wondered what he had missed. After all, he was just in class the day before.
He says, "Basically I was pissed off."
Michael thought the $6,000 used to pay tuition at the Maryland trade school was a good investment in his future.
"I put most of my savings in the school. I'm widowed. I just don't have a lot of money," says his mom Sally Liska.
The American Career Institute left students from Maryland to Massachusetts stranded and in limbo after it abruptly shut its doors.
Consumer Guide For Students
ACI had three campuses in Baltimore, Columbia and Silver Spring. The more than 800 Maryland students wanted answers from the agency that oversees these kinds of schools.
MHEC American Career Institute
Sally Liska says, "Isn't it your job to know what's going on with the school?"
"There actually wasn't anything in their annual reports that would have signaled to us that there was a problem." says Dr. Danette Howard.
In fact, the Secretary for Maryland's Higher Education Commission says ACI's annual reports showed a school with improved facilities, an expanded curriculum and a stable operating budget.
Maryland Higher Education Commission
Email MHEC at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-767-3301
But, apparently their lenders thought the school was overextended.
"We've learned that the banks actually called their loans in and that they were no longer able to be financially solvent," Dr. Howard says.
Maryland and Virginia say this kind of thing is rare. While career and trade schools do close, most don't shutter without notice.
General MD Private Career School Information
Luckily, for the students in Maryland and Virginia, there are special funds set up that the schools pay into, almost like tuition insurance, to help in cases like this.
State Council For Higher Education For Virginia
Dr. Howard says, "those funds were in the tune of over $4 million. And, so we were able to use that to support students and provide them refunds."
Maryland and Virginia require career and trade schools to be certified and accredited to operate in those states.
While you can't predict when this kind of abrupt closure will happen, you can be sure your school is in good standing before you enroll.
Frequently Asked Questions
And, as an added layer of protection, call potential employers to ask them if they hire students from the school you want to attend.
As for the American Career Institute, Michael Liska says, "I mean, seriously, you screwed a lot of people."