San Diego

Veteran Fears G.I. Benefits Wasted by Coleman University Closure

Coleman University, a private non-profit vocational school operating in San Diego for more than 50 years, announced Thursday it will shut down at the end of its current term.

The school's president and CEO, Norbert Kublius, said the university's failed bid for accreditation with the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACIS) impacted its financial sustainability and ultimately led to its closure.

Before the university's announcement, NBC 7 got word of the closure from student Blake Brimm. Brimm, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said he enlisted and fought for his country so that he could go to school.

Now, two semesters away from earning his bachelor's degree, he'll be looking for another campus. Unfortunately for Brimm, it won't be the first time he's had to do it.

ITT Technical Institute closed its regional campuses abruptly in September of 2016 leaving Brimm and thousands of other students, and countless veterans, with no answers.

"Here I am right in the same boat I was two years ago. You're in shock. You don't know what to do," he said.

Brimm said he's now run out of G.I. Bill benefits he had to wait 14 years to get.

"They pay for your school, they give you a housing allowance to make it easy on you. The G.I. Bill is a really good thing," Brimm said. "But in this case, you just used up $300,000 of my benefits and for what? For a bad accreditor. And I cannot get it back at this point."

Brimm said there is a way to get some of his benefits back through an appeal process, but when he took that road following the closure of ITT Tech he was told it would take more than 600 days for a decision to be made.

"But when I only have two semesters left for my degree, they're telling me I have to wait two years to get that paid for. That doesn't work," Brimm said.

Brim said when he got to class Wednesday night, the rumor among students was that the university was closing. Later in the period his professor confirmed to the class that she and the entire faculty, mroe than 70 people, had been laid off.

"Everybody pretty much just left at that point," Brimm said.

Students received an email that there would be a town hall Thursday on campus at 6 p.m.

Brimm said several veterans came to Coleman after ITT Tech's closure and are now in the same predicament he is.

"I will give [Coleman] this, though," Brimm said. "ITT Tech, when this happened, they just closed the doors. They didn't give us anything."

Coleman said in a statement it is negotiating with other school's in the region for transfer opportunities for its more than 200 students. It says it's also working with the U.S. Department of Education and California Office of Student Assistance and Relief (OSAR) for student assistance.

When ITT Tech closed, Kublius said Coleman worked out a deal with the school to take some of its students.

"Declining enrollment over the last five years has taken its toll. Many factors outside of the University’s control contributed to this decline, including de-recognition of national accreditor ACICS by the US Secretary of Education, tightened controls over international," the statement from the university read in part.

A message to students, faculty and staff sent Thursday said Coleman found out in June that its petition for reaccreditation was denied and received formal notice on July 18.

Kublius told NBC 7 on Thursday that some students signed a waiver and were notified the school was not accredited.

Coleman's Board of Trustees and Management sought alternate forms of financial support to keep the school open, but "after exhausting all feasible resources, the decision to discontinue operations at the end of the current term had to be made," the message said.

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