A closed building of Stone Academy in West Haven. After the nursing school abruptly closed on Feb. 15, educational plans of hundreds of students are left in limbo. Attorney General William Tong launched an investigation into potential violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act by the for-profit organization in February. Yehyun Kim / CT Mirror

Original reporting by Jessika Harkay. Compiled by Gabby DeBenedictis.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of CT Mirror’s Spanish-language news coverage developed in partnership with Identidad Latina Multimedia.

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Hundreds of students were studying practical nursing at Stone Academy’s three Connecticut campuses — in East Hartford, West Haven and Waterbury — when the school abruptly shut down earlier this year.

Since then, those students have been unable to obtain their transcripts while the Office of Higher Education audits the academy’s records to determine the validity of its coursework.

Here’s what to know.

Who owns Stone Academy?

Until last year, Stone Academy was owned by Mark Scheinberg, the founder and president of Goodwin University in East Hartford. He was forced last May to divest and pay $1 million to resolve allegations that Stone had concealed a high rate of student loan defaults.

Stone now is held in a trust managed by his son-in-law, Joseph Bierbaum. Scheinberg’s brother, Richard, also is a trustee.

The Connecticut attorney general’s office recently claimed Bierbaum and Scheinberg ignored civil investigative demands regarding their knowledge of the school’s academic and financial records.

When did Stone Academy close?

On Feb. 14, 2023, the school abruptly closed its doors amid questions about its examination passage rates, faculty qualifications and clinical training.

Although its shutdown came without warning, evaluations of the school have been ongoing for several months, according to the state’s Office of Higher Education.

State officials and lawyers for Stone sharply disagree over the chain of events preceding the closure and the legal basis for assessing attendance and qualifications of staff.

Why haven’t students obtained their transcripts?

About 850 students have been unable to obtain their transcripts while the Office of Higher Education audits the academy’s records.

The audit will analyze the records of Stone Academy nursing students and the validity of their course and clinical work.

One issue is whether students, who divided their time in class and in clinical settings, had adequate clinical hours — something that became difficult during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic, when skilled nursing facilities limited access.

A back-and-forth battle about who would pay for the audit lasted several weeks between the Office of Higher Education and Stone before the state decided to front the cost.

That marks the first step forward for former Stone Academy students, who have been waiting in limbo for their transcripts and to find out whether they’ll be able to transfer credits to outside institutions or have to start their practical nursing programs over.

But when the audit will begin remains unclear, as the Office of Higher Education plans to meet with the audit company to determine which records it will audit first, according to a spokesperson from the Office of Higher Education.

All the students’ files have been submitted to the firm already, the spokesperson said in March.

What are the options available to former Stone Academy students?

Timothy Larson, the executive director of the Office of Higher Education, said students have four options.

“The first step is if they no longer pursue a practical nursing program, we would want their transcripts and find out how they were paying for it and then refund their tuition,” Larson said. 

Larson said students who were just starting their programs could restart at another school without waiting for the audit.

Some students who were at the finish line, depending on what the audit concludes, may receive a certification of completion from the Office of Higher Education.

But for those who were in the middle of their program and want to transfer their credits to another school, it will be a complicated process.

“If you’re taking Pell [Grant] money, you need to keep your loan default rate very low. … They have to have the wherewithal to pay this money back [if they continue their education],” Larson said. “[The transfer schools] also are rated on their own performances, and they don’t want to bring Stone students that are not prepared into their cohort and drag down their performance rating status. So it’s very, very complicated, and that’s where we are right now.”

Stone Academy student Jennifer Mendez said Lincoln Tech told her at an information session that she could pick up her education if her credits are validated. She said others, like Porter and Chester, told her that her credits would first need to be approved, then she’d have to undergo additional testing, which would determine her placement in the program, she said.

In the meantime, many students are hoping to rile up enough support to warrant intervention from lawmakers.

CT Mirror Explains

Finding answers to big questions in Connecticut. CT Mirror Explains is an ongoing effort to distill our wide-ranging reporting on Connecticut topics into a "what you need to know" format.