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The private, for-profit institution will close its doors on July 21. It includes the Oregon Culinary Institute.

Pioneer Pacific College, a for-profit institution that includes the Oregon Culinary Institute along with campuses in Beaverton and Springfield, notified state and local officials Tuesday, July 21, that it will permanently close and lay off all its staff members due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Beaverton-based school will lay off 131 employees statewide. The closure and layoffs are effective July 31.Pioneer Pacific College logo

"We are experiencing an unprecedented pandemic due to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak," the college's human resources director, Cherie Baker, wrote in a notice to state agencies. "Statewide operational restrictions put in place by Governor (Kate) Brown have resulted in a dramatic loss of business. Due to this pandemic, it is currently unknown when business will resume to normal."

The college had around 400 students enrolled, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Its programs mostly focus on healthcare, paralegal work, culinary parts and business.

For nursing student Kearstin Rose Goodwin, the closure comes as a major blow.

Goodwin, 28, said she learned about the closure Monday via Facebook, and she did not hear from the school until the next day.

"While I'm glad that I finally got an email from them explaining these things, it upsets me that they have kept all students in the dark for months," Goodwin said.

She added, "After we were dismissed in April, there has been little to no contact from them. I haven't been able to know how to move forward and have been on pause for months.

Goodwin is a single mom, and with the pandemic raging on, she's not sure if she'll be able to continue with school.

She said she had to withdraw in March, a few weeks before the campus closed, because her daughter's school closed but she was still expected to come to campus.

"Everything is so uncertain during these times," Goodwin said.

Goodwin chose to go to Pioneer Pacific because it offered a low-interest personal loan to cover costs that federal loans did not, and she said unless she can find a school that offers low-interest loans and hybrid classes, she'll pursue loan forgiveness.

When asked for comment, Pioneer Pacific College President Don Moutos referred to a letter posted online announcing the closure to the Pioneer Pacific community and includes frequently asked questions about getting loans forgiven and where students can transfer.

The FAQ notes that loan forgiveness and transfers are mutually exclusive; if a student transfers, they cannot have their loans forgiven, and if they pursue loan forgiveness, they cannot keep the credits they've earned.

In the letter, the school suggested that students transfer to a public school: "This pandemic has placed a financial strain on all private schools; at least the public schools have the financial backing of the State of Oregon."

HECC spokesperson Endi Hartigan said the agency is collecting information for students on next steps and answering questions on issues like credit transferability and loan forgiveness, which will be posted on its website.

In addition, HECC will assist the laid-off workers on their work and unemployment options through the Dislocated Worker program.


Gina Scalpone
Reporter
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