Former Vista College students say class action lawsuit gives them renewed sense of hope
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - When the Vista College campus in College Station abruptly closed its doors for good on October 8th, some former students say they felt a sense of hopelessness in getting back any of the things they sacrificed to attend classes there.
Kolin Wilkins and Alexis Cruz are two of those former students. Wilkins was only five weeks away from graduating, while Cruz was literally three days from getting her diploma. Neither have received any answers on a tuition refund or credit transfer eligibility.
“I was definitely feeling hopeless at the time,” Wilkins said. “I gave them my benefits, my time, my money, my energy, and I have nothing to show for it. They won’t even call me about my transcripts. They just did not care. They were like, ‘Yeah, it’s over. We’re done. We might figure out something, but it’s over.’”
They regained some of the that hope after they learned a proposed class action lawsuit was filed against the school and its parent company Education Futures Group on Tuesday.
“Let me jump on board,” Cruz said of her initial reaction to hearing about the suit. “Only because of the fact it’s very expensive to go to this school.”
Both Wilkins and Cruz have already contacted the lawyers involved. Timothy Ferguson is one of the attorneys who filed the suit alleging Vista College lied about what it could provide students and breached contractual obligations.
“These students did not enter into this agreement to get half, three-quarters, or a third of their education. They entered this agreement because they were promised the entire education,” Ferguson said. “They said they were going to stop enrollment on the ground campuses, but don’t be concerned because we’re going to stay open long enough to complete your courses, your curriculum, and ultimately your education. Well, that didn’t happen.”
Ferguson says they’re seeking more than just a tuition refund to those students who believe they’re entitled to one.
“We’re seeking reimbursement of gas money, supplies money, how about lost time?” Ferguson said. “People say you can never get enough money and you can never get enough time, alright. Time is a valuable thing. It’s a valuable commodity.”
Ferguson says while there are some unique aspects to this case, it’s a playbook he’s seen from these type of for-profit education companies before, putting their concerns about money over the education they promised to students.
“It’s significant because it keeps happening, and it keeps happening to good people, to people who all they want to do is better themselves,” Ferguson said. “All they want to do is get a job. All they want to do is get an education.”
Wilkins is an Army veteran who says he committed over 50% of his GI Bill benefits to Vista College, which equates somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000. He was working to become a medical insurance coder and biller for either the Department of Veterans Affairs or Baylor Scott & White. Wilkins says he’s had to put so many of his plans on hold as he explores ways to get his money back and transfer his credits to other schools.
He says getting involved in the class action suit is almost more about holding the school accountable for what it did.
”We were held accountable for our grades, our attendance, our portion of the money that we gave to the school to take these classes, and they didn’t follow through on their promises whatsoever,” Wilkins said. “We were told that, ‘Hey, if you’re already in, you’re going to be able to graduate, no problem.’”
Cruz says she accumulated roughly $23,000 in debt to attend Vista College. She was working her way through the dental assisting program.
“We should not be left with no answers. We need answers. We deserve answers,” Cruz said. “We went to the school expecting to get an education, to further our careers and provide for our families, and that’s just not the case right now.”
KBTX reached out to Education Futures Group CEO Jim Tolbert for comment but have yet to hear back.
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