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ALCC in New York closes suddenly, students moved to local schools

The American Language Communications Center in New York City closed in early April, causing confusion and panic for students who may face both financial and legal issues.

The letter sent by school owners to agents after the closure was confirmed explained no refunds would be given. Photo: ALCC

The closure highlighted a trend in the industry, according to some industry insiders

In a letter sent to agents, one of the school’s owners Peter Pachter said the school was “ceasing operation effective immediately,” but added the organisation is aiming to “re-open soon”.

“They had no notice at all and were very distraught”

Pachter did not say why the school closed or why its cessation was so sudden. However, he did say no refunds would be paid by the school.

Students at the school were reportedly notified via social media and there were rumours of cancelled classes, but only found out the school had closed when they arrived and discovered signs declaring “All classes cancelled”, and staff unable to assist.

Speaking with The PIE News, executive director of New York Language Center Barbara Dick, revealed the closure was down to ALCC and its landlord’s inability to agree continuing terms.

“Last week, I was personally informed by the management of ALCC that they could not come to terms with their landlord and had to leave the premises by the weekend.  They had no notice at all and were very distraught about having to suddenly close,” she said in an email.

“The cost of doing business in New York City, with greedy landlords, outrageous real estate taxes, and labour laws … has made the cost of doing business here prohibitive. That, coupled with the decline in students due to visa denials and the overall political climate, was a disaster waiting to happen,” Dick added.

According to local reports, many students were unsure of their futures in the US, as their student visas are sponsored by and attached to ALCC. Students have 60 days to find a new school.

In his letter, Pachter recommended agents find their students new schools.

“We are getting requests from students and agents overseas”

Dick confirmed the New York State Education Department asked New York Language Center and others to take the stranded students, as well as those booked to ALCC but yet to arrive in the US.

“We have small premises and can accommodate a limited number of students only. Two other schools signed the agreement [with the local government]: Kaplan and Blue Data English School. Students can also request a refund from the Tuition Assistance Program which we certified ESL schools all pay thousands of dollars into annually,” she said.

“We are getting requests from students and agents overseas who have already bought their tickets and made arrangements to come to the United States.”

The school’s website was listed, but not available when The PIE News attempted to access it. The PIE has been unable to reach the Pachters or the school, and could not confirm why the school closed.

Executive chairman of EC English Andrew Mangion told The PIE News the closure highlighted a trend in the industry.

Although he made it clear he did not know the specifics of the case, and was speaking about the industry as a whole, Mangion said the closure was “symptomatic of a large scaling up of supply, culminating in 2014”.

This boon was at least in part due to an explosion in scholarships, which led to suppliers increasing school sizes and offerings, according to Mangion. However, this has now dried up and the industry should expect and work towards “consolidation” he argued.

“Schools were left somewhat like rabbits in the headlights of a car, unable to reduce supply fast enough… when one starts to discount too heavily, things start to go bad,” he said.

“I think we will see more acquisitions, and downsizing. A we bring supply back in line with demand, we will see health return to the industry. We need margins. Without margins and cashflow we don’t have an industry.

“We are looking for more acquisitions as we speak,” he added.

Mangion said his words should be taken as an “appeal” to colleagues.

“I am here making an appeal to the industry to be more creative, and bring supply back in line with demand, and giving respect to quality and the people they work with.”

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