ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Cathy McCloney wanted a better-paying job so she could give her young son a better life.
"(I wanted to give him) a good life where I wouldn't have to worry about where's my money going to come from," she said.
Instead, the Albuquerque resident got a mountain of debt and a minimum wage job after the for-profit school she attended folded without warning and locked her out with one class remaining in her certificate program.
"I am very angry," said McCloney, 22. "I'm upset with them."
And McCloney was not alone when the ATI Career Training's Albuquerque campus went belly-up in January. A total of 110 students were left in the lurch with no transcripts, no diplomas and thousands of dollars in debt.
"I owe them about … $13,000," McCloney said. "You know, with the economy the way it is now, no one has the money to be paying back all these loans."
School officials wouldn't call her back when she tried to get answers. News 13 investigated complaints about sub-standard classes at the school last fall and received the same cold-shoulder treatment.
Cleaning up the mess fell to the state's Department of Higher Education, which boxed up ATI's records and stored them at an HED facility in Santa Fe. The state also secured agreements with Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque and Brookline College, another for-profit school, to allow ATI students to finish their schooling.
Under those agreements, all classes completed at ATI will transfer to those schools.
"I would tell (ATI students) … contact us and let us know the specifics of the problem," said David Mathews, HED's lead counsel. "And we have a staff here who will let them get that problem solved."
But McCloney didn't know about those agreements and is now working for minimum wage instead of taking advantage of the medical assisting certificate she was working toward.
"(I have) really nothing (to show for it)," she said. "I wasn't able to finish the schooling to have anything to show for it."
However, for-profit schools in New Mexico may not be able to operate as callously at ATI in the future. A new state law, set to take effect in June, expands the number of for-profit colleges that fall under the state's authority.
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