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Long IslandEducation

Dowling senior: ‘There is no one protecting the students’

Dowling College aviation student Anthony J. George and

Dowling College aviation student Anthony J. George and his mother, Gloria, at their Seaford home among college paperwork, on Thursday, July 14, 2016. George, 21, was to start his senior year at Dowling in the fall semester. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Some Dowling College students, angry about losing time and money to complete their degrees, said Thursday they want the school to formally file for closure and implement a plan that would require other Long Island colleges to help them complete the rest of their degree programs.

“Why won’t the school close already?” said Anthony J. George, who was to begin his senior year in the aviation management program in the fall semester. “It’s not exactly open and holding class.”

George, 21, of Seaford, said he chose Dowling in 2013 because he couldn’t afford to “go away to college.” Now, many of the similar programs that will accept a majority of the credits he’s earned are located in Florida.

He said he has called and met with officials in the state Education Department and local elected leaders in his quest for clarity on whether there will be a plan to assist students who were pursuing degrees in Dowling’s aviation curriculum.

“There is no one protecting the students and that’s what bothers me the most,” George said.

The student was among those close to graduation who expressed extreme disappointment Thursday that the administration has offered little clarity on how to transition to other institutions. He and others spoke one day after Dowling trustees announced there was no agreement with Global University Systems, the international education investment firm said to have been interested in making a substantial financial investment in the financially strapped private college.

Dowling, which has been operating with a skeleton staff for the past five weeks, has not announced that it is closing.

No official number was available Thursday on how many of Dowling’s 1,700 students still are enrolled there, hopeful that a partnership agreement with GUS or another entity might save it. While many had left the college over the last few weeks, several seniors took the gamble and remained because transferring would mean losing many class credits.

Since early June, the college has provided on its website information for seniors who wish to take their remaining classes over the summer at other colleges and transfer the credits back to Dowling for an August graduation. An office that issues official student transcripts has been open every weekday. Beginning Monday, the office will be open from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.

When a college decides to close, it is required to inform several federal and state agencies — including the state Education Department — of both that decision and the formal date of closure.

“We have not received formal notification of closure from Dowling,” department spokesman Jonathan Burman said Thursday afternoon.

He said the department, which regulates the college, does not have data on how many students are expected to graduate on Aug. 31, before Dowling loses its accreditation, or how many students are left at the school.

Closure, not loss of accreditation, would prompt any “teach-out” plan for students to continue their studies.

Dowling was required by Middle States Commission on Higher Education, its accrediting agency, to develop a teach-out plan. As part of the plan, the college would be working on agreements with other higher education institutions.

Those agreements would outline the specific accommodations for displaced Dowling students, such as waiver of transfer fees, number of credits accepted in transfer and consideration of grade-point average for acceptance. These arrangements would go beyond any normal transfer opportunities, Education Department officials said.

Nearly two dozen Dowling aviation students already have transferred to Farmingdale State College, the only other Long Island college with an aviation program, spokeswoman Kathy Coley said.

“FSC is being as liberal as possible in accepting credits from Dowling. However, not all aviation program courses align with ours,” Coley said. “To provide further accommodation, we are beginning discussions with the Dowling administration for a possible teach-out program for their aviation administration students. We will make every effort to assist these students in completing their degree.”

Dowling, which has campuses in Oakdale and Shirley, has about $54 million in long-term debt.

Earlier this year, trustees had engaged in exclusive negotiations with GUS that were ongoing, officials said, even as they announced on May 31 the school would cease operations. That closure was delayed twice to allow for more intense talks with GUS.

During that time, Middle States, based in Philadelphia, said it would pull the college’s accreditation on Aug. 31.

Michael Devine, 25, of Redding, Connecticut, said as of Thursday afternoon he and other students had received no communication from the college.

“They took so long and now they are leaving us out to dry,” said Devine, an aviation student with about $90,000 in student loan debt. “They’ve offered no guidance on what we are to do next.”

Sharon Parkton, 22, a psychology major and a member of two honor societies, had only one semester left at Dowling. She said she immediately looked for other schools in the beginning of June and will attend Adelphi University for the fall semester. The move adds an extra semester to her academic plans.

“I was looking at Adelphi for graduate school, so I guess this a forced early transition for me,” Parkton said. “Maybe this is a blessing in disguise and what we needed to realize our full potential.”

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