State takes possession of student records after Marinello Schools of Beauty close

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HARTFORD--One week after it was announced that Marinello Schools of Beauty locations in the state would suddenly be shuttered, the state has stepped in to help former students.

The Connecticut Office of Higher Education took possession of the student records, including academic transcripts and affidavits confirming the number of class hours the students had. In all, there were about 250 boxes worth of files, and the state is now pairing the hard copies with electronic files.

"We have secured these files to assure that records will be available to students in the event they do not receive them directly from Marinello," said Jane A. Ciarleglio, executive director of the Office of Higher Education.

There were 467 students in the various Connecticut locations who were enrolled in programs for cosmetology, esthetics and barbering.

"Their lives have been disrupted so they`re extremely upset," Office of Higher Education Division Director of Academic Affairs Patricia Santoro said.  "They want to know what options they have to continue their education, discharge their loans, how are they going to put their lives back together again."

Several students have reached out to FOX 61 in the week since the announcement to say that they haven't received paperwork or their records, which is impacting their ability to transfer to other schools. The state's action is meant to help those students.

"Cosmetology is really important to me, I looked forward to getting finished with it, getting my license, getting a job for my children," student Staci Garay said. "I`m kind of disappointed because I only had three weeks left to finish school."

According to the OHE, the state will hold a workshop for former students to assist them in getting hold of their records and transferring to other schools. That workshop will be held Wednesday, February 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 61 Woodland St. in Hartford.

DOE representatives from the state and federal levels will be at the workshop, and so will representatives from other local cosmetology schools.

Ciarlegio said that students who attend the workshop will "learn how to discharge their federal loans and request tuition refunds," in addition to getting their files and learning about transfer options.

Another major concern is for student who earned their high school diplomas from the Parkridge Private School through Marinellos. According to the OHE, those degrees "are not considered valid."

Ciarleglio explained the extensive ramifications of that. "Students with these diplomas cannot transfer to other schools or obtain additional federal aid."

She said that the workshop will address these students' issues as well, but for those who don't attend, she said, "These students should seek a discharge of their federal loans or a tuition refund of non-federal aid payments, and complete a GED through adult education."

In a statement, regarding the invalid high school diplomas, a representative with the U.S. Department of Education said:

"As we noted in the February 1st press release announcing the denial of recertification to participate in Title IV for 23 locations across the Marinello Schools of Beauty chain, that decision was made in part because the Department had determined that Marinello was using an invalid basis for admitting students. For example, Marinello was requesting Federal aid for students based on invalid high school diplomas. The Department found students for whom Marinello obtained diplomas that did not actually represent completion of a high school program. In order for individual students to be eligible to receive Title IV funds, the student must, among other things, have a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent, or satisfy alternative requirements such as having obtained a passing score on an ability to benefit test. In the context of loan discharge options available to Marinello students, the Department has communicated that students may be eligible for a false certification loan discharge if they received an invalid high school credential from Parkridge Private School through a process administered by Marinello Schools of Beauty. To provide those and all Marinello students with their options in the wake of these closures, ED created a web postal located at www.studentaid.gov/marinello. The portal provides information on loan discharges, transfer options, student record retrieval and relief specific to Connecticut students who may have received an invalid high school credential from Parkridge Private School through a process administered by Marinello Schools of Beauty."

Marinello is a for-profit company that operates a chain of schools across the country, and recently announced the closure of 56 locations, including six in Connecticut: the main campus in East Hartford, plus branches in Fairfield, Hamden, Meriden, Niantic and Willimantic. A seventh location in Torrington closed on January 31. The chain is owned by B&H Education.

The closures were attributed to the U.S. Department of Education's decision to stop federal loans and grants to the schools due to records violations.

To learn how to discharge federal loans, click here. Students should also know they may be eligible for a partial tuition refund for payments that weren't covered by financial aid. To learn more about a refund, contact the OHE at 800-842-0229 or email edinfo@ctoh.org. You can also register at www.ctohe.org.