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Faculty speaking out after Argosy University closes its doors in the Twin Cities

March 24, 2019 11:16 PM

Julie Beaudoin was weeks away from giving birth to her son when she lost her job as a program chair at Argosy University in Eagan in the Radiation Technology Department.

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She is one of more than a dozen faculty at the now-defunct for-profit university who say they haven't received their last paycheck and are unsure if they still have medical insurance.

RELATED: Argosy University officially closing

Argosy University announced it was shutting down in early March, two months after its parent company, Dream Center Education Holdings, entered into federal receivership. The process is a form of bankruptcy.

Beaudoin and her colleagues originally believed the move was to help save the ailing for-profit school.

"At first we were all really optimistic," Beaudoin said.

However, they say they received little information in the weeks before the closure about what was happening.

"There was no communication to us or to guide our students with," said Jennifer Zarke, program chair at Argosy. "Standing up in front of them was the most difficult because we're just standing there, just trying to reassure them with no reassurance."

Email communications reviewed by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reveal troubling signs the end was coming. One message explained that employees prescription benefits were "suspended" until further notice. Another email warned there would be a "slight delay in payroll" before the March 1st payday.

"At that point, it was, we're going to do this day-to-day because we don't know," Julie Hansen explained. Hansen served as the program chair for the veterinary technology program.

RELATED: Argosy University students worry school will close

Faculty who spoke with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS say they were not surprised when the doors finally closed. But they say in the weeks since, their futures have become more uncertain.

"Most of us didn't get our last paycheck I don't think," said Heather Danig, a former faculty member. "It's kind of been a nightmare."

Faculty also learned late last week their health insurance is on "hold," which means their claims won't be processed, according to a letter from Mark Dottore, the receiver for Dream Center Education Holdings.

"I should be picking out nursery decor and washing baby clothes but I'm calling, worrying do I have healthcare coverage? How much does a delivery cost out of pocket?" Beaudoin said.

In a phone interview, Dottore said the company does have money to fund the final payroll expenses and that faculty "will be paid" eventually. When asked about issues with medical insurance, Dottore explained that Dream Center ran a self-insured medical plan and at this time, he has been unable to determine where the money paid by employees as premiums is at but is working to track it down.

Even with these challenges, faculty members continue to focus on their students, many who have been left with no tuition reimbursement and no program to transfer into.

"We have students who are full-time workers, working one or two jobs, who are single moms and they wanted this so badly and it's just been taken from them," said Gail Spiegelhoff, program chair in the medical assisting program.

"That's the hardest part," Laurie Reichel, a clinical coordinator for histotechnology, agreed. "They're in limbo. They don't have a plan anymore. So I'm hoping for the best for them."

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Kirsten Swanson

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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