Gonzales college: CLOSED

Wade McIntyre
Miranda Guillot of Holden, a student at Ascension College in Gonzales, expresses concern over receiving her certification at the school after its sudden closure over the weekend.

A group of dismayed and angry Ascension College students gathered around the facility located at 320 E. Ascension St. in Gonzales Monday morning.

Their school, a fixture in Gonzales since its licensing by the State Department of Education in June 1989, closed suddenly and with little notice on July 31.

Some students learned of the school’s demise on their way to class Monday where handwritten signs on doors advised them to visit frkerr1@yahoo.com for more information, or write to PO. Box 77380, Baton Rouge, LA, 70879-7380.

Miranda Guillot, a student from Holden, said she was 30 hours short of her degree. She was concerned about paying student loans if she did not receive her certification. Some of the students were already talking about filing a class action suit as a way out, she said.

A letter from the college dated July 30 and mailed to some students said the college was no longer eligible for federal student aid. The school can’t afford to appeal the decision due to the legal costs, Fred Kerr, administrator wrote.

Ascension College has offered training and schooling “at our risk” since January, expecting federal reimbursement according to the letter, but that money has not materialized.

The letter also cited missing cash payments made by students, and said local authorities had been notified about the possible embezzlement.

Enclosed with the letter came a statement of the individual student’s account, with advice on how to download a Closed School Discharge Form. Students were advised to consider finishing they’re certification at area schools Delta College, Louisiana Technical College, Medical Training College and MedVance.

Angela Daigle, an instructor who joined the students Monday morning, said she had been waiting on three back checks from the college since June 26, including one which earlier failed to clear her bank.

“They told me they were waiting on funds to come,” she said.

Daigle said she won’t be affected as much as students at the school because she works in the office of Gonzales dentist Dr. Lisa Bailey, but she still “wants her money.”

Students said they had begun to have concerns about the school’s operations for over a month.

Dental Assistant Kathleen Kelso, who has three classes left in her last semester before graduation, was perturbed recently when administration told her class they would be taught by substitute teachers.

“They were dental instructors, but had no teaching experience,” Kelso said.

Nicole Cousins, a medical office specialist student, said she enjoyed attending the school, that the staff was friendly and knowledgeable, and “the owner himself knew everyone’s name.”

Still, she noticed the recent change at Ascension College.  On June 21, in a computer software class, Cousins said there was no paper to print a class test on.

“I went to Office Depot and bought paper with my own money,” she said. “I was determined to take the test.”

A medical assistant student, Lee Mizell, said he moved from Bogalusa to St. Amant to attend the school, and was set to graduate this October.

“They sat there and told us it was going to be OK. They even hired two new teachers last week,” he said. “I feel we were robbed.”

Students said Dennis Kerr, president of the school since it was purchased by Pinnacle Education Inc. in Jan. 2009, was at the school often, as was Darryl Kerr, dean of the school.

Darryl Kerr also served as President of Savannah River College in Augusta, Ga., until that business school collapsed from financial problems at the end of June last year.

According to News 12, the CBS news affiliate there, the college depended on federal student loans to pay for the education of many of its students. In the fall of 2008, the U.S. Department of Education started a program review of the college which tied up federal funding.