State senators amended a bill Wednesday evening in an effort to provide funding and additional protections to help Stone Academy nursing students after the school abruptly shut down earlier this year.
The amendment to Senate Bill 936 would:
- Provide about 150 Stone Academy graduates, who finished their course work in the last two years but need to take additional clinical hours, free clinical classes alongside stipends up to $1,000 to make up for missed time at work or other expenses;
- Reimburse Stone Academy students, who did not graduate from the program but finished some classes, for out-of-pocket expenses;
- And allow the Office of Higher Education to use funds from the student protection account to provide grants to former Stone Academy students.
“We were looking to make sure that we — the state of Connecticut and specifically the Office of Higher Education — could recoup the costs [for Stone Academy students],” Sen. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, told CT Mirror.
“We don’t want the students to wait for the lawsuits to get settled because that can be a long time, and in the meantime, their careers are on hold,” Slap said, referring to a class action lawsuit filed earlier this month against the nursing school.
In February, Stone Academy closed its doors amid questions about its examination passage rates, faculty qualifications and clinical training. The closure has left about 850 students in limbo after the Office of Higher Education seized the students’ transcripts for an audit of the academy’s records to determine the validity of its coursework.
“The students at Stone Academy had the rug pulled out from underneath them when it abruptly closed in February. They spent time and money but their dreams of becoming nurses was in jeopardy,” Slap said. “The legislation also calls for Stone Academy, not the taxpayers of Connecticut, to ultimately pick up the tab.”
Slap added that the funding for the amended bill will mainly come out of the state’s student protection account, which is funded by quarterly fees paid by career schools equal to four-tenths of 1% of tuition. Although the bill will not be included in the budget, since it has a fiscal component, it must be sent to the Appropriations Committee.
If the Appropriations Committee passes the legislation, it will be sent back to the Senate, then House for final approvals.
“I don’t expect any opposition. I mean, anybody who listens to the stories of these students, I think, can’t help but have sympathy for them, and want to help them,” Slap said. “I think that’s going to be true for both members of the Senate, and the House and for members of both parties.”
A few weeks ago, Attorney General William Tong sought a court order, claiming the institution and its officials have not provided all requested data and documents for the state’s investigation into alleged violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Tong had previously filed for a separate court order against Stone’s owner Joseph Bierbaum and trustee Richard Scheinberg after he said they ignored civil investigative demands regarding their knowledge of the school’s academic and financial records.