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ConsumerWatch: Bay Area Dental Hygiene Program Abruptly Shutting Down

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Dental Hygiene Program at the Institute of Medical Education. (CBS)

Dental Hygiene Program at the Institute of Medical Education. (CBS)

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SAN JOSE (CBS 5) — Students at an expensive Bay Area vocational school are scrambling after a letter from the school told them their program was suddenly shutting down.

Thanh Nguyen and her classmates at the Institute of Medical Education are worried their degrees and their futures are in jeopardy. This week, students in the school’s dental hygiene program were told it is shutting down effective immediately.

“I just go to the class everyday and today they come to the class and tell me there is no school today. Just take a day off, go home,” Nguyen said.

The letter comes as a shock to the students, who have so far invested $35,000 in the 18 month program and are supposed to take their licensing exams this spring. Students are now worried they might not be qualified to take them.

“We’re currently running out of time to make up our clinic hours. We’re uncertain if we’re going to be able to meet them,” said student Erica Hernandez.

On Wednesday, the school’s CEO spoke briefly to CBS 5 ConsumerWatch and did not answer our questions.

Since then, IME’s CEO Sunil Vethody provided a statement responding to the claims.
Download statement from Institute of Medical Education (.doc)

Some second year hygiene students told ConsumerWatch they could come to school but their graduation date has been moved up from April to this month. The situation has left them desperate to finish their lab work.

“I think it’s a very dangerous situation,” said Jenny Young, a former instructor at the school. She said there was constant staff turnover. Young also said she didn’t have the necessary supplies to teach.

I don’t have dental impression material, I don’t have books and I don’t have all the supplies,” Young said. “And so, teaching without supplies is very difficult.”

But that was just one sign of trouble. Late last year, a national accrediting body issued a warning that the school’s hygiene program could lose its accreditation.

“We actually sat down as a group and made formal complaints to pretty much every agency that we could contact,” said dental hygiene student Summer Latouf.

But when they complained to state agency that oversees vocational schools, the students said nothing was done. Now they’re wondering what they should do next.

Some second year students said their graduation date has been moved up again to March. The school said their San Jose and Oakland campuses are merging and may move to Fremont. As far as refunds, at least one student said she was told that is not going to happen.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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