National American University closing Overland Park, Independence campuses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Another for-profit college appears to be in trouble.

National American University is closing several of its physical campuses, including two in the metro.

Its commercials boasted class flexibility to complete classes at your own pace, and that's exactly what attracted Renee Keith and Lynnea Selleck to attend NAU's Overland Park campus.

"I didn’t have to go every day and I could go at night," Keith said.

"It's been a challenge but it’s been real fun. I’ve actually excelled in the program," Selleck said.

But they now feel cheated.

A few months ago, NAU told students the surgical tech and some other programs would be discontinued, but promised students currently enrolled would be able to finish their degrees.

"I took their word for it. I was naive and thought I’d get to graduate," Selleck said.

Fourteen months into their program, National American University said it's shutting down both its Overland Park and Independence campuses. Students and staff feel blindsided.

"It was a lot of emotions all at once. I was really mad. I didn’t know what I was going to do," Keith said.

"We have nine months left, and they just decided to take it away," Selleck said.

In a statement, NAU said it's transitioning away from physical campuses to focus on online-only education.

But many hands-on fields, like surgical and nursing, can't be completed online.

Students said they're now saddled with a mountain of debt, and some classes that can't even be transferred to other schools.

"$20,000. And it’s like they just took my money and ran," Selleck said.

Both local NAU campus locations are now up for sale.

The college said it will offer up to $6,500 for credits that can't transfer, but students worry that's not enough and fear they'll be forced to start back at square one.

Here's the full statement National American University sent to FOX4:

"Thank you for your messages received regarding the AAS Surgical Technology program offered by National American University in Overland Park. The program is being discontinued as a result of low enrollment, with only 12 Surgical Technology students currently enrolled at Overland Park. NAU is committed to assisting these students to achieve their educational goals, including assisting them to transfer to other institutions.

Surgical Technology students who are unable to complete their NAU program externship by August 18, 2019 will have opportunities to transfer to other local colleges that offer similar programs. Students who transfer to other institutions may be able to enroll without an entrance exam and receive transfer credit for certain courses successfully completed at NAU. Students who transfer to another Surgical Technology program may receive a cost offset of up to $6,500.00 for NAU credits that are not accepted by institutions with which NAU has a transfer arrangement. NAU will directly pay the transfer institution to offset such costs. Students who wish to remain with NAU may also choose to transfer to an NAU online program, including other programs in health care.

During it 78-year history, the university has periodically evolved and adjusted its programming and locations to serve the changing needs of its students, the majority of whom are working adults. Today, NAU is implementing an operational plan that focuses on online academic programs and expanding its programming in certain disciplines, while suspending new student enrollment in other programs and transitioning away from physical locations, including its Overland Park and Independence locations.

In 1941, National American University, then known as National School of Business, opened its doors to students in Rapid City, South Dakota, 20 miles from Mount Rushmore, which was completed that same year. Founder Clarence Jacobson, a local businessman and attorney, began offering business courses to an inaugural class of 13 students.

In 1962, Harold D. Buckingham acquired the school and guided its growth for many years. The seventh of eleven children, Mr. Buckingham grew up in rural western Nebraska. He worked different jobs to finance his college education, including delivering gasoline and kerosene to local residents in a 1926 Model T Ford truck. His goal was to become a teacher, but he was unable to find a teaching position during the depths of the Great Depression. Although he went on to become a successful businessman, Mr. Buckingham remained a passionate advocate for higher learning. He firmly believed that quality educational opportunities and a better quality of life should exist for every person who desired them. Even later in life, Mr. Buckingham did not forget his dream to become a teacher, but remarked, “At 80 years of age, it may be too late!” The Buckingham family continues to be actively involved in the university.

As the institution expanded, its name evolved throughout the years, from National School of Business, to National College of Business, to National College, and finally to National American University. Today, National American University offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, with several programs separately accredited or approved by national educational and professional associations.

College education has changed dramatically during the past several years and continues to evolve today. Our students want full mobile functionality and support services available 24/7. To serve the needs of the majority of its students, NAU will primarily offer courses online taught by faculty across the country. NAU plans to continue offering traditional classes at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia to serve military personnel and their families. Other locations are in the process of being closed. Among its 3,500 students, NAU has approximately 300 students associated with its remaining locations. NAU’s Central Administration will continue to operate in Rapid City, SD, while online student support services are now being provided by NAU staff in both Rapid City, SD and Overland Park, KS.

NAU continues to evolve today. NAU recently acquired the assets of Henley-Putnam University and through that acquisition has added eight new online programs in strategic security, intelligence management, and counterterrorism to NAU’s core programs in business, technology, accounting, and health management.

Although the university has changed dramatically since its humble beginnings, it remains true to its commitment to offer high quality technical and professional career programs in a caring and supportive learning environment."

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