Virginia College in Chattanooga is closing Friday, seven months earlier than expected.

Originally, when the school announced it would close, students had until July 1, 2019, to finish their courses and earn their certificates. The school near Eastgate stopped enrolling new students as of September 10th.

Channel 3 was told all current Virginia College students in Chattanooga will finish on Friday, and will not be able to continue. The culinary department will finish on December 18th.

The school's owner, Education Corporation of America (ECA), shared the news on their website after the company’s accreditation was suspended on Wednesday. ECA also owns Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute and Golf Academy of America.

We reached out the council to find out why, but we did not hear back on Thursday. According to NBC, financial problems and academic concerns were to blame. 

The decision sparked a response from the U.S. Department of Education. Press Secretary Liz Hall sent this statement:

Education Corporation of America’s decision to suddenly close its campuses is highly disappointing and not best for its students. There were other options available.  The Department was in daily conversations with ECA and potential teach-out partners to assist as many students as possible to find a new institutional home. Instead of taking the next few months to close in an orderly fashion, ECA took the easy way out and left 19,000 students scrambling to find a way to finish the education program they started. The Department is ready to help ECA students with either transferring their credits to new schools or applying for closed school discharges.

Thursday morning, Latonya Kirby walked out of Virginia College for the last time in tears. She is just one class away from earning a business administration degree, with plans of opening her own shoe store. 

“It's very heartbreaking. It's very upsetting,” Kirby said. “I was just thinking of all the hard work I put in for the last two years. Now, it means nothing. I have to start over somewhere else again and spend another two years of my life trying to get an education when I thought I had a degree.”

She said she heard the news of the school closing abruptly in class from another student.

“It's disappointing. To have us here and then you take our degrees away, our diplomas away and no explanation on why you're doing it,” Kirby explained. “Then you're not communicating with us, letting us know we can do this for you since we weren't able to do this.”

Regardless of the outcome, students, like Kirby, are not giving up on their education. 

“Just have to take it with a grain of salt and move on. God has a higher plan. It may seem disappointing to us now but later on, we will see that this might be the best thing for us,” Kirby said.

Virginia College Dean Cate Green said she was just as shocked as her students to hear the new closing date. 

"I'm shocked, but I'm very encouraged. I have been overwhelmed by the number of nearby schools who have called offering help," Green said. " Our motto has always been students first, and that is how it will be until close."

We reached out to ECA to find out how student's credits and transcripts will be impacted, but have not heard back. The company's website states more information will be posted on December 17th. 

Several local schools are providing assistance to Virginia College students. Chattanooga State Community College is having an information session on Monday. 

Monday’s information session will be led by Marsha Barker, director of adult services. Reed Allison, director of financial aid, also will be on hand to answer questions about financial aid. Between now and Monday, students may visit the Federal Student Aid website to learn more about what to do when a school closes. The site provides tips on transferring to another school, obtaining academic transcripts, more about federal student loans, and how to contact your loan service for assistance. Students may sign up for the December 10 information session at www.chattanoogastate.edu/tnreconnect  or call (423) 697-3346 with questions.

Bryan College is also providing assistance:

Bryan College is currently working with the academic leadership of Virginia College to assist Virginia College students during this transition. Bryan College is located in Dayton, TN with a satellite office conveniently located in Ooltewah at 6719 Mountain View Rd, Suite 109. Bryan College, founded in 1930, offers more than 50 residential and online degrees.  We have dedicated a phone line for Virginia College students to contact an admissions counselor. Please call 423-634-1114 or email AGS@Bryan.edu.

Miller-Motte is helping as well:

-We are going to waive the registration fee for these students.
-We received approval from our regulatory agencies to waive our residency requirement of 25% for these students.
-Students can start the application/enrollment process for the next start of January 7th
-The courses that students took at Virginia College will be evaluated according to our transfer credit policy and alongside our program requirements.
-Campus locations can be found at www.ancoraeducation.com
-In addition to local campuses we also have campuses in Ancora Education that offer 100% online programs