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Without warning, job training company shuts down programs across Massachusetts

A company offering certification in the medical and information technology industries has closed its locations in Massachusetts without warning, leaving hundreds of students uncertain about their future, state officials and students said on Wednesday night.

The state Division of Professional Licensure said in a message posted to its website that the agency learned on Wednesday that the American Career Institute had closed its locations in Braintree, Cambridge, Framingham, Springfield, and Woburn.

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“We’re very troubled by this,” said Barbara Anthony, the state’s undersecretary of consumer affairs and business regulation, in a phone interview on Wednesday night. “We’re very troubled by the abrupt closing, the apparent lack of notice, and ... the ramifications for students and their families.”

Company officials did not return calls and emails seeking comment on Wednesday night.

Anthony said her office is talking with the company to determine the cause of the closure, and will work with affected students in an effort to secure refunds or help them continue their training elsewhere. She would not comment on whether the company may have broken any laws with the abrupt closure.

Anthony said that according to preliminary estimates, at least several hundred students have been affected.

One student, Courtney Saylor, 22, of Brockton, said Wednesday night that she recently completed a nine-month medical assistant training program and was trying to schedule an exit interview at the school, the final step before receiving her certification.

She said she went to the Braintree location on Wednesday after getting nowhere on the phone, and an employee told her when she arrived that the company was shutting down.

“I did all my work and got straight A’s to get my diploma,” she said. “And now I’m not going to be able to get it. Here I am looking for a job, which I’m not going to be able to get without that piece of paper.”

She said tuition for the program was $14,000 and that she received financial aid.

Another medical assistant student, Clare Conway, 25, of Lynnfield, had just begun taking courses at the Woburn location. She said that she attended class on Wednesday morning and then received a text message later in the day from her instructor, who told her that the school was closing.

“It’s very shocking because, you know, everything was totally normal this morning,” Conway said. “And then it’s like the rug was just swept out from under your feet and we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The career institute had offered training programs in areas including information technology and to become medical and dental assistants, according to its website.

The company on Wednesday sent an email to students explaining the closure, though Saylor and Conway said they did not receive it.

“Regrettably, American Career Institute is being forced to close on Jan. 9, 2013,” the company wrote in the message, which was dated Jan. 9. “The owners had to make the difficult decision to close the school due to its recent and unanticipated inability to access additional credit from the school’s lenders.”

The school said that it is working to arrange transfer opportunities for affected students, and also said students may be able to discharge any federal student loans. The institute said students can contact the company via email and referred them to the state professional licensure division for more information.

Anthony said her staff will be on site at all of the school’s locations on Thursday, and will notify the offices of Attorney General Martha Coakley and State Auditor Suzanne Bump.

She said her staff will provide updates to affected students online at www.mass.gov/dpl, and they can call a hotline at 617-727-5811.

“We’re committed to getting to the bottom of it,” Anthony said. “I want to assure the students and their families that we are committed to investigating this thoroughly.”

It was not immediately clear if the company’s locations in Maryland had also closed. A spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation did not immediately return messages seeking comment late Wednesday.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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