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Medical college expands in Colorado Springs as other for-profit schools close

November 18, 2017 Updated: November 21, 2017 at 6:17 pm
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Pima Medical Institute's new location is visible from Interstate 25. Photo by Debbie Kelley

Big blue letters identifying Pima Medical Institute's new location aren't hard to spot from Interstate 25 near the Rockrimmon exit.

"We're pretty visible now," said Tara Dailey, director of the Colorado Springs campus, one of 17 brick-and-mortar schools in the for-profit family- and employee-owned system.

Pima's 400 local students in medical, dental, pharmacy and veterinary care programs started classes a few weeks ago at 5725 Mark Dabling Blvd.

"We needed a bigger space to accommodate all of our students and programs, and we wanted a better location that's more convenient and easier to get to," Dailey said.

The school spent $1.7 million on renovations, said Fred Freedman, president and CEO.

This is the third time that the 45-year-old Tucson, Ariz.-headquartered school has moved since entering the Colorado Springs market in 2002.

"We've grown each time," Freedman said.

Growth this time is due in part to closures of other private career schools.

The Institute of Business and Medical Careers College shut down its Colorado Springs campus last month, citing declining enrollment, high operating costs and accreditation changes.

Dailey said Pima picked up about 50 of its students, including those studying to be medical and dental assistants and medical laboratory technicians. Pima added the latter as a new program.

"IBMC worked hard to partner with us and make sure there was a smooth transition for students so they're on track," Dailey said.

Pima also could benefit from the upcoming closure of Alterius Career College in Colorado Springs, one of 21 that parent Zenith Education Group announced last week it will shutter as part of a restructuring.

While current students can complete their classes through Alterius, Dailey said, Pima also is positioned pick up future students who might have been considering Alterius, formerly called Everest College.

"We have some similar programs," she said, "so students who would have gone there may come to us."

Freedman cites "good student outcomes" as a reason for Pima's longevity and expansion.

"Our student retention, job placement, loan default rates, debt-to-income ratios are all very healthy, which is why we continue to do well," Freedman said.

The system has about 9,000 students, he said.

Some for-profit career schools have faced federal scrutiny and lawsuits in recent years, including Corinthian Colleges Inc., from which Zenith acquired its campuses in 2015.

Corinthian was accused of falsifying student job-placement rates and misleading prospective students by persuading them to incur large debt. Corinthian shut down a 200-employee call center in Colorado Springs about the same time as the school sale, later filed for bankruptcy and a month later closed its other campuses.

Freedman said heavy regulations contribute to the difficulty of running such a business.

Full statement from Zenith.

Pima occupies about 32,000 square feet on the first floor of the new building, which had been empty for several years and previously housed the University of Phoenix.

For the past decade, Pima was in two buildings near The Citadel shopping mall east of downtown.

"We moved from two separate buildings into one contiguous space, which adds to better student experience in the classroom," Freedman said.

Said Dailey: "It's quite a modern facility, very open and welcoming, with windows from floor to ceiling. Our students are thrilled to be here."

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