Southwest opens its doors to Vatterott and L’Ecole Culinaire students

The news hit all the local media outlets and left many Memphians in dismay. Vatterott Educational Centers Inc. announced it was closing for good Dec. 17.  The nationwide closure was immediate, displacing both students and faculty at two proprietary colleges in Memphis—Vatterot and its culinary school, L’Ecole Culinaire. 

Dr. Robin Cole, President Tracy D. Hall, and Vice President of Student Services Jacqueline Faulkner address students from Vatterott and L’Ecole Culinaire in the Bert Bornblum Library auditorium Dec. 20.

Dean of Business and Technology Robin Cole, President Tracy D. Hall, and Vice President of Student Services Jacqueline Faulkner address students from Vatterott and L’Ecole Culinaire in the Bert Bornblum Library auditorium Dec. 20.

Southwest responded to the crisis by inviting students to an information session Dec. 20 at the Macon Cove Campus to learn how to continue their studies at Southwest. More than 200 students attended the session, meeting with academic advisors, counselors and representatives from enrollment, admissions, financial aid, and student support services offices.

“We want you to know there will be a brighter day and we want to encourage you to continue your education even if you don’t choose Southwest,” President Tracy D. Hall said. “Do not let this stop you from being who you want to be.  It’s hard, and sad, and we are devastated for you, but most of all we want you to be successful wherever you go,” she added.

Vatterott Educational Centers operated schools in 19 locations in 9 states, including three campuses in Memphis for several years.  The abrupt news stunned employees who were left without a job, and left students scrambling to figure out how to transfer their credits to another school, process their student loans, and for many nearing graduation, obtain their credential.

Southwest’s Chef Steven Leake counsels former L’Ecole Culinaire students at an information session for students impacted by the Vatterott closure.

Southwest’s Chef Steven Leake counsels former L’Ecole Culinaire students at an information session for students impacted by the Vatterott closure.

Student Retention and Success Executive Director Dr. Jacqueline Taylor consoled the students who were clearly distraught.  “I know you are feeling wronged, but you’ve got to unpack some of those feelings so we can help you begin a new academic journey,” Taylor said.  She mentioned a number of student support services available to the students.  Many of them were surprised to hear about book scholarships, the Veterans Support Center, free counseling services, and social services for challenges like child care, housing and transportation.

Dean of Business and Technology Dr. Robin Cole informed the students that Southwest has several programs that closely resemble those offered by Vatterott, like welding, technology, automotive and business.  “We are committed to doing all we can to help the students seamlessly transition to Southwest and continue their studies without interruption,” Cole said.

Southwest’s Chef Steven Leake spoke to several students from L’Ecole Culinaire.  Lcuria Guy, who was poised to graduate last month, was among them. “This is a culture shock for some of us,” she said. “We are concerned about graduating and know you all are here to help – thank you for caring.”

For students’ reactions to the closings and coverage of the information session, click on the following news links: