A new vocational school in Salida will start classes Monday for people who want to work in the health care field, representatives said.
American Specialty College has taken over the former Heald College site on Pirrone Court. A spokesperson said at a grand opening Wednesday that 15 to 20 students will begin courses next week to become medical assistants and certified nursing assistants.
The for-profit college, in a three-story building, could serve up to 1,000 students as more education programs are accredited, the company said. In August, the state Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education approved a license for the college to operate.
Some 18 months ago, local students were left in the lurch when Heald campuses in California were closed by their parent company, Corinthian Colleges, which faced a $30 million U.S. Department of Education fine for misrepresenting job placement rates. California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed suit against Corinthian, whose revenue flow was effectively cut off by a federal inquiry.
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Spokespeople for American Specialty College stressed the new school has no connection to Heald. The private college is being launched by American Specialty Healthcare of Modesto, the owner of Central Valley Specialty Hospital, at 17th and H streets.
Gia Smith, chief executive officer for American Specialty Healthcare, said she expects 50 percent of the school’s graduates will work for the company’s health care facilities and services. In addition to the long-term acute care hospital in downtown Modesto, American Specialty bought the former Avalon Care Center on East Orangeburg Avenue and has planned to build a rehab hospital in north Modesto.
Smith said other hospitals and medical facilities in the Modesto area have a need for medical assistants, nurses, lab technicians and nursing assistants.
Amin Vohra, chief operating officer of the college, said student tuition will range from $2,500 for accounting courses to about $20,000 for an 18-month licensed vocational nursing program.
American Specialty also hopes to offer an associate’s degree in registered nursing and a dental hygienist program. The total tuition cost for the two-year RN program would be around $30,000, representatives said. The nursing program requires approval from the California Board of Registered Nursing, a process that could take nine months.
Vohra said the school is working on Title IV federal student aid funding and is talking to banks about loans for students. According to a brochure, the Salida college plans to offer other education programs in accounting, business administration, emergency medical technician, health information management, health science, home health, medical scribe and medical laboratory.
In addition, the company is looking into visas for students from other countries to attend the college, Vohra said.
Smith said the school will stand apart from other proprietary colleges, which have come under criticism for job placement rates, quality of education and costs. She said the company will be able to offer jobs for graduates at its own health care facilities. It will hire qualified instructors and also provide scholarships for some local students, she said.
Lisa Riggs, director of the nursing program at Modesto Junior College, said there is a need in the Modesto area for certified nursing assistants and licensed vocational nurses but she has concerns about the pass rates, student attrition and tuition costs of proprietary colleges.
Riggs said tuition is much more affordable for students in community college programs for future nurses, medical assistants and nursing assistants. The tuition cost for completing MJC’s two-year nursing program is about $6,500.
Riggs also advises students to check to see whether nursing and allied health degree programs at any school are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
A new registered nursing program could impact clinical training space for nursing students at local hospitals, which have arrangements with the nursing programs at MJC, Delta College in Stockton, Merced College and California State University, Stanislaus.
Riggs said the clinical training issues will need to be addressed in a feasibility study required by the state nursing board.
Smith countered that it takes one or two years for applicants to get into nursing programs at other colleges. She said clinical training can be provided at American Specialty’s health care facilities.
Representatives for American Specialty said the Salida school has medical assistant and anatomy labs, a dental lab, fully equipped classrooms and an ambulance for training emergency medical technicians.
Jason Frye, who taught psychology classes for Heald before it closed, said some of the instructors who taught for Heald in Salida have been asked to teach at the new college. “The leaders of the school are a great bunch of people,” Frye said. “They have a very rigorous enrollment process. We want to get the most successful people to attend this school.”
According to its CEO, American Specialty Healthcare has plans to open a chain of health care facilities and schools that will extend outside of Modesto. The new college in Salida can be reached at 209-857-4800.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321