By Steve Klamkin WPRO News
Rhode Island State Police and the State Department of Education say they expect to seize academic and financial aid records from the defunct Sawyer School.
In the case of education officials, they hope to get the records to some 302 students who were left in the lurch when the private, career training school closed unexpectedly on Wednesday.
State Department of Higher Education officials spoke Thursday night with the Sawyer School's presumed owner, Michael Kelly, who authorized the school's president, Paul Kelly to speak with the state officials and to make the records available, said Michael Trainor, spokesman for the Department of Higher Education and Commissioner Ray Di Pasquale.
"We're going to take responsibility for the custody of those records, but we don't want to hang on to them, we want to get them to the students," said Trainor. He added that the state agency is working to help the students transfer to other schools.
Trainor said that six schools are offering to accept Sawyer School students. They include Roger Williams University, the Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and private schools, including MTTI, (MotoRing Technical Training Institute), New England Institute of Technology and Lincoln Technical Institute.
"I like that there's other schools willing to take us on," said Joshua Miller, 31 of East Providence. He said that he has been out of work for several years, and had just five weeks left toward completing his business studies at the Sawyer School.
"Hopefully our credits that we've taken are going to transfer to them, and then hopefully I'm going to have only another semester, another month, a couple of weeks left. I don't really want to go backwards and do another year if I don't have to," said Miller, who was concerned that not all of those schools offer the kind of accounting program in which he was enrolled.
Trainor said that Michael Kelly indicated that the Sawyer School would offer certificates of completion to students who have completed their coursework, but he could not explain the value of such a certificate from a school that, like Sawyer, has lost its accreditation.
Trainor urged students to call the department's hotline, 277-5018, or to go to the agency's website for more information.
He said that all four members of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation had taken an interest in the case, writing to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, urging him to “use every possible measure to ensure that these students continue to receive federal financial aid at the accredited institution to which they transfer and to stop the flow of federal funds to the Sawyer School immediately.”