When Belhaven University President Dr. Roger Parrott learned that Argosy University permanently shut down about 20 of its nationwide campuses, he took to Facebook to send “a short message of hope” to the students who only received a 48 hour notice that classes would not be in session on Monday or any day after.
“There’s schools across America that close, but usually there’s some advance warning,” Parrott told Mississippi Today. “When you have a big for-profit school like Argosy, it just happens all of a sudden. They won’t give any warning, and I think that puts students in so much more jeopardy. That’s especially why we wanted to help.”
Belhaven is prepared to help approximately 16,000 Argosy students whose studies have come to a screeching halt. The nonprofit, Christian university based in Jackson says it’s fully committed to help the students finish what they started and alleviate their frustrations by offering significant tuition discounts to complete their degrees online.
“At a challenging time as this, a student that has had their academic career cancelled needs a safe haven,” Parrott said in a news release. “At Belhaven University, we excel at offering a caring home for our students in a highly supportive Christian environment. From our online program, to our on-campus locations in Houston, Memphis, Atlanta, Jackson, Southaven, Mississippi, Chattanooga, and Dalton, Georgia we would be blessed to help Argosy students adjust academically and emotionally to this dramatic interruption … it’s at the core of what we do and who we are.”
Belhaven will waive application fees for Argosy students from now through April 30. Students who transfer their credits to Belhaven will be awarded a $500 scholarship towards their first class. If approved, Argosy students may also transfer a maximum of two-thirds of their program hours toward a graduate program.
“It’s reassuring to know that there are other schools out there that care,” Argosy student Kallie Koolmo told Mississippi Today after being informed of Belhaven’s willingness to help students like her. “After this happened, you kind of look at colleges and you really question are they in it for their students or are they in it for the money? But when other schools reach out, it gives you hope that something might work out. It’s not like we’re never going to be able to go to school again. They’re giving us options. It feels really good.”
Koolmo, who was attending Argosy’s Twin Cities campus in Minnesota in hopes of becoming a veterinary technician, was at a state hockey tournament with her dad when she found out her school was closing. “I was scrolling on my phone actually. I didn’t even get an email right away like a lot of students did,” she said.
Koolmo, 20, received an official email from Dream Center Education Holdings, Argosy’s owner, about the shutdown Monday, March 11 — three days after the university closed amid fraud allegations.
“I was scared, to say the least,” she said. “I never actually worked for something as hard as I did in school. When I was in high school, I struggled a lot, and I didn’t really do that well. When I got accepted into college, I started doing something I loved. I was doing the best I’ve ever done in my life, then I read that there’s a possibility that I might have to start all over. You work for something so much, and them someone just takes it away.”
According to Koolmo, the financial aid awarded to her to cover her tuition at Argosy was taken away without explanation. The university then set up a payment plan for her to pay the money she supposedly owed before the semester would be over. She said Argosy asked for $1,500 from her the week before closing.
“Those students, they’ve invested in those programs,” Parrot said. “They’ve invested their lives, their time, their energy, their future. When they feel like they don’t know where to turn or where to get help, we just want to be there to help because this is what we do.”
Even though Belhaven does not offer every program that was available at Argosy, such as Koolmo’s veterinary technician program, Belhaven wants to guide all Argosy students to a new path even if it is towards a university other than itself.
“We’ll get them through it,” Parrott said. “If the best option is for them to come to Belhaven, great. But if the best option is for them to go some place else, we’ll help them do that too.”
Thanks to a non-traditional six semester structure, Argosy students interested in taking Belhaven’s classes will be able to start as soon as next month.