MERRILLVILLE | A school that prepared students for careers in the medical field has shuttered its doors, just weeks before some were set to finish class.
Allied Health Institute Inc., 8398 Mississippi St., filed for bankruptcy Nov. 1, court documents show.
The move left students, such as Erin Johnson and Chasiti Stanley, wondering what happens next academically and whether they can recoup their tuition.
“I'm 13 weeks away from finishing, and this happens,” Johnson said. “There's nothing I can do. I do understand that stuff happens to people, but (the school director) didn't just wake up two weeks ago and think, 'Oh man, I ran out of money. I can't continue to keep running this school.'”
Johnson said students were notified the school would close Oct. 28 through Nov. 9 for building maintenance, with classes resuming Nov. 11. But days later, they received a letter about the bankruptcy and closure.
“I was devastated,” Stanley said. “It's like somebody snatched the rug from underneath you.”
Johnson, of South Chicago Heights, has worked 23 years as a court reporter but sought training in the health care industry after noticing a trend of layoffs in the legal field.
She decided to become a vascular technician, performing ultrasounds on arteries and veins. The job would most often pair her with patients who have deep vein thrombosis or need their carotid artery scanned.
She heard mixed reviews about Allied, but it was relatively close to home and offered a short program that fit around her full-time work.
She was set to graduate Feb. 12 with five other students in her class. The program requires 350 clinical hours accumulation before students can take a test to become a technician, Johnson said.
“I was 60 hours away from meeting the 350,” she said. “It's just one of those things where ... wow, this guy really did a number.”
She is out more than $6,000 in tuition, she said.
The bankruptcy filing lists creditors, many of whom Johnson and Stanley identified as fellow students.
Merrillville Clerk Treasurer Eugene Guernsey said the school has operated in town at that location since 2008. The Allied website states the school started in 2004.
Attorney Rosalind G. Parr represents the school in the bankruptcy. She had no comment on the matter. Attempts to reach the school via phone and e-mail were unsuccessful.
Stanley reached the school director Stuart Wilson, days after the letter of bankruptcy arrived in her mailbox.
She went to the school, asking him to verify that the clinical hours she had logged matched school records.
The Allied website states Wilson was an echo/vascular technician with nearly 25 years of experience, and eight years ago, he saw the need for more people in the field, prompting him to open Allied Health Institute in Merrillville.
The school offered a vascular technician program and training for prospective cardiology technicians, echocardiography technicians, pharmacy technicians and medical billing and coding specialists. Programs ranged from six to 14 months, with classes meeting one or two days a week, according to the website.
More than 2,000 students completed programs at the school, its website states.
Stanley, of Merrillville, was among the students who enrolled in more than one program, to increase her job possibilities after graduation.
She earned a diploma for the CT, or computerized tomography, program, and was in the middle of the echocardiogram program and had overlapped with the vascular program.
“I got sick this summer and had to drop out of vascular class,” she said.
She signed up to resume the course in March, having spent more than $15,000 on courses by that time, she said.
She paid up front, using the $16,000 her fiance's father bequeathed when he died.
“Instead of getting married, we spent the money on the education,” Stanley said.
She has no money left from that gift, so enrolling in another training program would force her to pay out of pocket.
She wants the school to be held accountable.
“If you're really sorry, you should've had somewhere for us to go,” Stanley said. “You should've made sure we finished.”
Fellow students have talked about hiring an attorney.
“We'll probably go to one attorney and turn it into a class action civil suit,” Johnson said.