Degree of Debt: Students of closed cosmetology school still getting bills

Vanessa Hughes reviews a letter she got from Regency after it closed. (Source: Eric Pointer/ KSLA News 12)
Vanessa Hughes reviews a letter she got from Regency after it closed. (Source: Eric Pointer/ KSLA News 12)

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - It's almost been 2 months since the Regency Beauty Institute closed its doors in all 79 locations, including the one in Shreveport.

According to the Regency website, the school closed because it didn't have the funds to continue to operate.

There are multiple intertwined reasons: declining numbers of cosmetology students nationwide, a negative characterization of for-profit education by regulators and politicians that continues to worsen and, in light of these factors, an inability to obtain continued financing.

In the final installment to our special Degree of Debt series, KSLA News 12 investigates where the students are now and how they're trying to move forward.

The closure of the cosmetology school left students scrambling to find a place and way to finish their education. There are also left with questions about where the money they gave to Regency went, leaving them in debt without an education to show for it.

"You call the corporate office they won't answer. If we email them, they're not going to email us, cause there's nobody there. So what are we supposed to do about it?" asked former Regency student Vanessa Hughes.

KSLA News 12 first reported on the closure in September when dozens of Shreveport students were blindsided.

"I have a daughter and I'm just trying to get my career going," said Gabrielle Bennett. She and several other aspiring cosmetology students were enrolled at Regency until it abruptly closed its doors on September 28.

"I drove up here and there were other students outside that read the sign and everybody was just in so much shock," Taylor Daugherty said the time.

The Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology told us Regency officials did  not follow the proper procedures when it shut down. The school did not notify the state board nor the students of its closing.

"It was crazy," said Hughes, "Because, how could something happen so fast and not anybody know about it?"

Despite the school cashing in on the student's loans and grants, several students say they still got a bill after it shut down.

Since it the closure, KSLA News 12 has unsuccessfully reached out to Regency to get answers about the charges and the money students claim was taken.

"How in the crap did they take $6,451 from me in 2 months?" asked Hughes.

Tommi Embrey says Regency was supposed to take out her financial aid money in small chunks throughout the 10-month program. Instead, she says they took out about half of her financial aid after just 2 months.

"I don't see any reason that they should have taken out that much so quickly," said Embrey.

According to a U.S. Education Department spokesman, the students could either apply for a closed school loan discharge or transfer their earned credits to another school.

Blalock's Professional Beauty College was listed as an official transfer partner school for former students.

Many students have transferred to Guy's Academy in Shreveport. Rodrick Patterson is the financial aid administrator for Guy's.

Patterson says they are working with the students to get their financial aid transferred. He says to get everything straightened out, students will need to update their federal financial aid application (FAFSA) with their new school listed. It will then have to be re-approved, and if it is, students can have their loans transferred from Regency.

Patterson also said, as a courtesy, they plan on subtracting the amount that Regency took from the students from their balance to Guy's.

"It's all been kind of hectic."

Patterson believes the bills the students received are for institutional charges that weren't covered by their financial aid. He says can students fight back by disputing those charges in civil court.

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