Brown Mackie to close Indianapolis campus in nationwide retreat

Brown Mackie College will cease to enroll new students in Indianapolis and eventually close its downtown campus as part of a nationwide drawdown for the for-profit college chain.

The local Brown Mackie site in Circle Centre mall will continue to teach existing students through June 2018. The Indianapolis location is one of 22 of Brown Mackie’s campuses that will stop enrolling new students nationwide, according to its parent company. The school has 26 campuses in total, including sites in South Bend, Merrillville and Fort Wayne that will be part of the eventual closure.

The decision was “a response to changes in regional demand and conditions in the education sector,” said Bob Greenlee, a spokesman for parent company Education Management Corp., which besides Brown Mackie also runs Argosy University, the Art Institutes and South University.

Brown Mackie has leased 25,000 square feet in Circle Centre since 2012. The lease helped mall manager Simon Property Group stabilize occupancy on the fourth floor, which had struggled to retain retail tenants.

The company recently emerged from deep legal trouble as for-profit colleges have come under increased scrutiny nationally.

Late last year, Pittsburgh-based Education Management Corp. reached settlements to stop investigations into its recruiting practices, resulting in a $95.5 million win for the federal government and $100 million for student loan debt forgiveness in 39 states.

More than 5,500 Indiana students of Brown Mackie College and The Art Institutes were reported to receive loan forgiveness totaling more than $5.7 million under one settlement, according to the Indiana Lawyer.

Brown Mackie’s Indianapolis campus offers programs in business and technology, health care fields, and legal studies. A Brown Mackie campus in Michigan City closed in May—part of an earlier move that shuttered a few campuses nationwide.

For-profit colleges have received increased skepticism in recent years as reports show their students leave school with significant debt and little to show for it. A report published in late May by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that students who attended for-profit schools from 2006 to 2008 “were worse off” after leaving, according to the Wall Street Journal.

For-profit colleges knocked the study, saying the results were mostly explained by the Great Recession.

In late May, former Arizona nursing students sued Brown Mackie College-Tucson and its parent company over its nursing program, claiming their training was so deficient that they weren't allowed to take a state licensing exam.

"The 11 plaintiffs expected to graduate last year until a state nursing board investigation found some of the school’s faculty weren’t qualified and were using veterinary supplies to teach students how to care for human patients,” according to an article in the Arizona Daily Star. In the article, Greenlee said the school would not comment on pending litigation.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has stepped up her advocacy against for-profit colleges, calling on Friday for Brown Mackie's accrediting body, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, to receive “strong, aggressive” action from the federal government.

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