(photo via NBC Connecticut)
Stone Academy, an LPN program provider in Connecticut, announced it would be closing all three of its campuses effective Thursday, February 16. Approximately 800 students attended the school across the three campus locations.
The decision comes after state officials found compliance issues during site visits in July 2022 and December 2022. After multiple inspections and audits, Stone Academy was unable to meet compliance standards and was forced to close its doors.
Compliance Issue Details
According to a letter released by the Connecticut Office of Higher Education on Tuesday, Stone Academy was unable to reach the required NCLEX-PN test score threshold in order to remain open. Connecticut requires LPN programs to have an NCLEX pass rate of 80% or higher. In 2022, Stone Academy’s pass rates ranged from 46-70%.
The Connecticut Office of Higher Education stated that around 20% of the school’s instructors were not qualified to teach in an LPN program. They also claimed that the school did not properly track student attendance.
Finally, Stone Academy is accused of providing students with invalid clinical experiences. The school was conducting clinical experiences on campus rather than in off-campus clinical sites. Per the Connecticut Board of Nursing, campus clinical experiences do not count toward the clinical hours required to graduate and sit for the NCLEX.
“You’re paying almost $30,000 for an LPN license in the state of Connecticut,” Timothy Larson, the executive director of the Connecticut Office of Higher Education said. “You should be in front of a professor that’s qualified and in a school that is guaranteeing to the extend to they can, that you are prepared to take this NCLEX test.”
Public Officials Speak Out
“For many months, our office has been working with the school to address a number of serious compliance issues that included unqualified faculty, invalid student clinical experiences and recording attendance,” said Larson. “Our sole focus is helping these students figure out exactly where they stand and what their options are.”
Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, M.D. also released a statement, saying, “The news that Stone Academy is closing its three campuses is extremely disappointing, especially given the need of healthcare professionals in the workforce today.”
“At a time when we need nurses more than ever, I’m disappointed in Stone Academy’s closing, but I’m also disappointed in Stone Academy’s lack of proper education among nursing students,” said State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee. “The Department of Public Health’s priorities are to improve the state’s health care workforce without compromising patient quality of care, including clinical experience. It’s sad whenever an institution closes, but also frustrating that this institution could not keep educational quality up to standard. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to create a strong setup in Connecticut to improve the quality and quantity of health care workers in our state in response to this setback.”
Stone Academy students are understandably frustrated about the abrupt closure. Students claim the only notification they received was via letter.
“I sacrificed so much being in school, like having little kids and having to work, balance being a mom,” said student Tynay King. “I feel like Stone needs to be held accountable for the time everybody put in to come to school, everybody showing up, everybody being on time, everybody doing their part. We’re doing our part. We need you guys to do your part.”
“I’m confused, I’m upset, I’m mad,” said student Jessica Cordero.
“We were just left dumbfounded, basically,” said Lezette Murphy, a student. “We’ve been working so hard.”
There is also a private Facebook group called Justice for Stone Academy Students. Presumably created by students, the public group description reads:
“Let’s come together and be heard. We showed up and did what was asked of us but what do we get in return? No license and no support. With non-credentialed teachers that we were completely unaware about, loans in the thousands, and no communication on what to do next. Whether you’ve been here dedicating your tears, stress, hard work, and TIME for 4 years or 3 months, you deserve to be heard.”
One student turned to Instagram to express her feelings about the school’s closure. In a Reel, Boe Rudolph shows a montage of video clips with overlaid text that reads:
“From being excited to be going to nursing school with my girlfriend…to being told our school is closing for good. What a set back! Now we have to start all over again elsewhere.”
Rudolph captioned the Reel: “Can’t get over the fact we have to start all over again somewhere else this is sooo crazy and unfair!”
What Does the Closure Mean for the Students?
According to school officials, they will assist students in securing transcripts and provide guidance regarding transfer. Students may also be eligible for a partial refund of tuition if they paid out of pocket.
A spokesperson for Stone Academy stated that the school has partnered with Porter and Chester Institute to provide current students with resources and the opportunity to finish their education. A page specifically for Stone Academy students and faculty has been created on the Porter and Chester Institute website.
There are only two other schools in Connecticut that offer an LPN program: Lincoln Technical Institute and Griffin Hospital School of Allied Health Sciences.
Lincoln Tech shared an open invitation on their Instagram page for Stone Academy students to apply for transfer.
NCLEX Pass Rates in Connecticut vs. Nationally
According to the Connecticut State Department of Public Health, the NCLEX-RN pass rate in Connecticut for 2022 was 87.03% and the NCLEX-PN pass rate was 71.5%.
This is above average compared to the national pass rates of 63.39% for NCLEX-RN and 67.46% for NCLEX-PN in 2022, according to NCSBN.