PTC students say they were blindsided, feel deceived by technical college’s closure

OAKDALE, Pa. — It is not the outcome anyone in the community wanted to see: Pittsburgh Technical College has announced it will close forever. This comes roughly a year after 11 Investigates began digging into troubles at the tech school.

>> Current quarter will be the last for Pittsburgh Technical College students

We told you last fall when faculty/staff at PTC took a unanimous vote of no confidence. Last October, we broke the news when a high-powered law firm was hired to conduct an independent investigation that found potential financial misconduct by the school’s President and CEO Dr. Alicia Harvey-Smith. Then in March, we reported on the college’s accreditor placing PTC on probation for failing to comply with financial and ethical requirements.

Just last month,11 Investigates exclusively reported on the State Attorney General’s Office probe into complaints at the college. Then, last night, 11 Investigates broke the news that PTC would be closing its doors for good.

>> Pittsburgh Technical College placed on probation, in jeopardy of losing accreditation

There are now hundreds of students, faculty and staff who are affected by this closure. Classes will end when the quarter wraps up on June 27, which is just two weeks and two days from now.

Student Bryce Bladen says students and faculty/staff were never the priority under the school’s most recent leader.

>> AG’s office investigating complaints against local technical college, sources say

“It was always her lining her pockets,” Bladen says. “That was the priority.”

He’s referring to PTC’s President and CEO Dr. Alicia Harvey-Smith, who has been at the center of several financial mismanagement complaints. From day one, she has maintained those are targeted attacks against her. As for Bryce Bladen, he’s supposed to graduate in September, but he doesn’t know what the next couple of weeks will hold.

“I spent the money to get the education that now I don’t have,” Bladen added. “Now a bunch of students are just sitting there like ‘What do we do?’”

When it announced it was closing for good, Pittsburgh Technical College released the following statement, reading in part:

“PTC has faced declining enrollment, market pressures, and inflation in recent years due, in part, to the global pandemic ...”

“... In addition to orchestrated attacks against the institution ... "

While classes will wrap up for good at the end of this month, PTC says student housing, the café, and support services will remain open until Aug. 9, when campus shuts down forever; however, students say that’s not true. They tell 11 Investigates they got an email Tuesday saying they need to be out of their campus housing by June 28.

Hanna Tourney is in the middle of her program. She’s also a resident assistant who relies on housing because she lives several hours away.

“My program pretty much doesn’t exist at any other college,” Tourney said. “As far as I knew, we were shutting down one of the buildings due to lack of new enrollment. We haven’t heard anything else.”

The college says, “PTC has entered into teach-out agreements with multiple colleges and universities that will provide a pathway for students to continue their degrees at other institutions without interruption.”

However, the school’s accrediting agency, Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) rejected PTC’s ‘insufficient’ teach-out plan.

“We don’t even have a teach-out plan yet,” Bladen added. “They have about 2-3 weeks to submit one before the school shuts down, so I don’t know where that leaves students.”

MSCHE also made it clear, PTC needs to submit or comply with the following:

· The existence and status of any internal and external investigations

· A copy of governing board bylaws

· Evidence of governing board reporting related to institutional finances, including copies of minutes for meetings held within the last year

· Any form of retaliation against a complainant is strictly prohibited

The Mid-Atlantic Association of Career Schools (MAACS), a trade Group for trade schools, put together a list of Western Pennsylvania schools that will help PTC students finish their education.

Bladen says he believes PTC’s closure is just the beginning.

“There is going to be a lot of backlash,” Bladen says. “Lawsuits, there are going to be lawsuits.”

11 Investigates has also heard from several upset nursing students who go to school and work full time. They say they can’t find compatible programs and after months of PTC’s President and CEO reassuring them that the college had no plans to shut down, they feel deceived and like their money was stolen from them.

Point Park and Carlow Universities are now on a growing list of schools that will help PTC students.

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