Metro

Quincy College president resigns after state shuts down nursing programs

Quincy College part-time nursing students Jennifer O’Donnell (left) Carolina Goncalves, and Samantha Shockey. “There’s a lot of unknowns,” Goncalves said. “We don’t know anything. It’s very frustrating.”
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Quincy College part-time nursing students Jennifer O’Donnell (left) Carolina Goncalves, and Samantha Shockey. “There’s a lot of unknowns,” Goncalves said. “We don’t know anything. It’s very frustrating.”

Quincy College President Peter Tsaffaras announced his resignation Tuesday, acknowledging that he had lost the support of the college’s board of governors amid a tumultuous time for the school.

The board selected Quincy Mayor Tom Koch to temporarily lead the school until a new president is chosen, according to a spokesman for the college.

Tsaffaras’s announcement came a week after the state Board of Registration in Nursing effectively shut down Quincy College’s nursing programs after finding serious deficiencies, meaning more than 250 students will have to find another institution to finish their degrees.

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Tsaffaras read his resignation letter during a board of governors meeting, and said he had let the board know of his decision during a closed-door session on May 3. He acknowledged he lost support of “some members” of the board beginning last June, which is when problems with the nursing programs were initially addressed by the state nursing board. The nursing board formally withdrew its approval of the programs on May 9.

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Tsaffaras’s resignation letter, however, states that the problems in the nursing program are not the reason he is leaving. He has been president since January 2011, and his last day will be June 1.

Quincy College is affiliated with the city of Quincy, but is funded with tuition and does not receive money from the city or state. The school has approximately 5,000 students, and awards two-year degrees, though it recently received state approval to award four-year degrees.

As the college now seeks a new president, nursing students are scrambling to figure out their next move.

The state nursing board’s decision to withdraw its approval of Quincy registered nursing and practical nursing programs means that students who have not completed their coursework will not be able to finish at the school and take the national board exam, known as the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX.

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The college has prepared an appeal, but unless the decision is quickly overturned, 264 students must finish their education elsewhere.

In withdrawing its support for the programs, the state board noted the college’s NCLEX scores, which have been very low over several years; its curriculum; and a lack of stability in its leadership and administration, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Students said they are frantically trying to make arrangements to finish their schooling, e-mailing other nursing schools to see if they are able to transfer.

They are also asking questions of Quincy College officials, who have hosted several meetings with students in an effort to get them transferred.

Carolina Goncalves, 22, attends the school’s part-time nursing program and thought she had done everything she should have to make sure she graduates in December.

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But now, she doesn’t know where she’ll finish, how much it will cost, and whether she will be able to graduate on time.

‘If they can’t remedy the situation, I’m not looking forward to having to remedy it myself.’

“There’s a lot of unknowns,” said Goncalves, who lives in Plymouth and is working toward an associate’s degree at the college’s Plymouth campus.

“We don’t know anything. It’s very frustrating.”

Part-time students like Goncalves are in the midst of a semester that ends in June.

Like her peers, Goncalves doesn’t know if credits from the current semester, which began in January, will be recognized by the state nursing board as acceptable to transfer to another school, or if she will need to repeat the coursework elsewhere.

Full-time students have finished their spring semester, and can take those credits to another school. Students who will complete all of their coursework at Quincy College by Aug. 1 can take the licensure exam, according to the nursing board’s decision.

The percentage of Quincy College students who passed the licensure exam on the first try in 2017 was just 54 percent, down from 59 percent in 2016 and 72 percent in 2015.

The average passing rate for colleges in Massachusetts has been between 80 and 90 percent since 2012.

The college thinks it has a good case for an appeal of the board’s decision, but officials there do not know how long the process will take, said Taggart Boyle, vice president of communications and marketing.

The college can also apply to be approved again, a process that could take a year.

In the meantime, college officials are consulting with other schools on whether Quincy students can transfer to a different program, required under state regulations.

Nursing programs offer coursework in different sequences, and transferring between programs is not seamless, though the college is trying to make it easier.

The college plans to waive transcript fees for current students, and may reimburse tuition on a case-by-case basis.

Students said they enjoyed their experience at Quincy College and believed they were getting a good education. But now they are trying to figure out their futures.

“If they can’t remedy the situation, I’m not looking forward to having to remedy it myself,” said student Samantha Shockey of Plymouth.

Shockey and her classmates are circulating a petition to ask the state nursing board to allow students scheduled to graduate in December to finish at Quincy College.

“I signed up for the program,” Shockey said. “It’s on me if I don’t pass the exam — not to get kicked out for no reason. The whole thing is a nightmare.”

Jill Terreri Ramos can be reached at jill.ramos@
globe.com
. Follow her on Twitter @jillterreri.