RENO, NV - Jackie Rider sits in her Sun Valley mobile home, perplexed and a little angry. "Angry, upset. I don't know what I'm going to do."
Rider is a single mom with three kids, one with special needs, a role with all the responsibilities and time demands it implies. A week ago she was building a life for them and herself pursuing a business degree at Morrison University. Then suddenly the school announced it was in bankruptcy. A sale had fallen through. In the space of a few days it closed.
Like many, she was attending school through federal loans and grants, living on stipend checks issued by the school. Before it closed, those checks went out, and began bouncing. "It went boing, boing, boing," says Doug Banks with a rueful chuckle.
Bangs is a Vietnam vet, trying to rebuild his life after losing his construction business to the recession. He was enrolled in computer technology classes at Morrison. In a way, he's lucky. He cashed his $2600 stipend immediately, but now the bank is calling.
"The lady said the check was returned and she wanted her money back and obviously I couldn't do that because if I didn't have that I'd be packing my stuff right now."
Because that's how he pays his rent? "Absolutely. Yeah." You mean without it you'd be homeless right now?" "Absolutely."
The school's closure came as a sudden surprise to most, but looking back there were signs, if you were in the loop. KOLO 8 News Now has obtained a letter sent to employees in May which indicates they were having cash flow problems, trouble meeting payroll and seeking new investors. A full week before the announcement, some workers had apparently already left. "They were telling us they were on vacation." says Rider. "They were gone."
But the school continued to take in money from the student loans and grants. Samantha Wellman received an email confirming another $16,000 had been received August 13th, two weeks before the school closed. She got her last stipend check before the others, but now worries about future bills with no checks and the $50,000 dollars in loans she may still have to pay.
"They have it, so where is it?"
Some Morrison students will be able to transfer their credits to another school. Some are still told they can't.
Some like Jackie Rider and Samantha Wellman are told they can finish their degrees on line, but at the moment have no way to pay for internet. And they have even more immediate concerns: power bills, putting food on the table. Their path to a new life is filled with new roadblocks.
"I was doing it so I could get a better job for my kids," says Rider, "and now I could be stuck forever."
Throughout the past week, attempts to reach executives at Anthem Education have only led to brief statements from a company spokesperson. When we asked Tuesday for an explanation about the bounced checks and the status of the students' loans, we received a reply that there was "no additional information."