INDUSTRY, Calif. — Students lined up for hours under a blistering sun Tuesday outside now-closed Corinthian Colleges, hoping to get their transcripts and frustrated with their options: If they find another school willing to accept their credits, they won't qualify to have their existing loans discharged.
Several for-profit schools were ready to recruit students at Corinthian subsidiary Everest College in the city of Industry, about 20 miles east of Los Angeles. After students got their transcripts, they were greeted by UEI College representatives, who had a booth decorated with star-shaped balloons and handed out tote bags with the school's logo.
"They did catch us at a vulnerable time," said Ashley Sanchez, 19, a student in the medical assistant program. "Hopefully they do give us the right information."
Corinthian Colleges schools enrolled 5,873 Post-9/11 GI Bill students in fiscal 2013, totaling $61 million, according to federal data. Last July, Student Veterans of America came out with a "Not Recommended List" to make veterans aware of the education institutions with unclear futures. Schools on this list were owned by Corinthian Colleges.
Students at Everest said they were weighing difficult choices.
Some were just weeks from graduating. If they transfer to another school, they likely will have to do additional coursework. If they enroll and complete a similar program, they will not qualify for tuition reimbursement or federal loan relief. That would leave many saddled with debt.
If they choose to have their loans discharged, then they must start over, but could enroll in a school with lower tuition and potentially better job prospects.
"I know there's a lot of panic and concern," said Robyn Smith, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. "The reality is, they really need to assess whether those degrees will lead to a job. Before they jump into something, they really need to investigate all their options."
Corinthian Colleges shut down all of its remaining 28 ground campuses Monday, less than two weeks after the U.S. Department of Education announced it was fining the institution $30 million for misrepresentation. About 16,000 students were displaced.
The closures included Heald College campuses, as well as Everest and WyoTech schools.
Corinthian was one of the country's largest for-profit education institutions. It collapsed last summer amid fraud allegations and a cash shortage.
Earlier this month, the Education Department announced it confirmed hundreds of cases of falsified post-graduation job placement rates. In one instance, Heald's Honolulu campus claimed a student had found work in accounting even though administrators knew she was working at Taco Bell, the department said.
The review came after the Santa Ana-based company reached an agreement with the agency in 2014 to begin selling or closing its schools.
The Education Department said Monday it would reach out to students about their options. It also provided lists of colleges with similar programs nearby.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin criticized the department for listing other for-profit schools that he said are under investigation.
"How in good faith can they tell these Corinthian students — who just had their college disappear and are sitting on a pile of debt — that these are viable transfer options for their students?" said Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat.
Department spokeswoman Denise Horn said: "We are doing everything we can within statutory limits to help students affected by the largest college shutdown in American history."
For-profit schools have come under scrutiny in recent years as they have grown, attracting veterans, single mothers and other students whose needs often are not met by traditional colleges.
A 2012 Senate Democratic report found the schools aggressively recruited students, charging them high tuition and leaving many with years of debt. The review found 54 percent of students who enrolled in 2008-2009 did not complete a degree or certificate within two years.
Which credits Corinthian students can transfer will vary by college. However, community colleges typically won't take transfer credits from for-profit schools unless they are regionally accredited, said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.
Of the Corinthian schools, only Heald was regionally accredited.
Several for-profit schools appeared ready to recruit Corinthian students Tuesday. On UEI College's website, the front page said, "UEI cares. Now accepting transfers from Everest, WyoTech and Heald!" The school did not return a request for comment. But in a statement, Fardad Fateri, president of the International Education Corp., which owns UEI, said the college was "here, available and ready to support these students in transferring."
Some Everest students said they now distrust trade schools but are concerned about having to start over if they choose to have their loans forgiven and go to a community college or a traditional two or four-year public school.
"You're going to be there forever," said Haley Sandoval, 17, who was enrolled in Everest's medical assistant program.
Associated Press writer Kim Hefling in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.