By Annabelle Blair
Bramson ORT, a 40-year-old technical college with campuses in Forest Hills and Brooklyn, closed in February after losing its accreditation, which effectively removed its authority to grant degrees. The Queens campus is locked and empty except for an office that handles student transcript requests.
With a student population of 471 in fall 2016, Bramson had seen its enrollment rates decline by over 30 percent since 2010. It had also struggled to meet accreditation requirements since 2013, New York State Education records show.
“There’s literally no one here,” the woman at the transcript office said when the school was contacted for comment.
Bramson was a nonprofit, two-year institution offering certificates, diplomas and associate degrees in accounting, business management, computer technology, medical and natural science, paralegal studies and other technical fields. The average student was 40 years old and Bramson served a strong multicultural population.
The college, located at 69-30 Austin St., had recently built a new library near the Queens campus. It was dedicated in January 2016 with the support of donors from World ORT, a global Jewish organization promoting education.
Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) saved the school from going under in December 2014 when she arranged meetings to renew financial aid payments to Bramson from the U.S. Department of Education.
Leading up to the actual closure, rumors that the school might shut down spread around campus. In 2013, Bramson was put on a two-year probation for failing to meet accreditation standards under the state Board of Regents.
Many on the campus were unprepared for the shutdown, particularly after being lulled into a sense of false security by Meng’s involvement, the recently dedicated library, active recruitment of new students and the college administration’s repeated denials of the rumors.
In July 2016, the college’s president David Kanani sent an e-mail to the student body: “By talking to some of you, I hear that the rumor about our school having lost its accreditation still persists. As I mentioned in my previous email and visiting some of your classes at the end of the Spring semester, we are in the process of reaccreditation. Our school is accredited and our application is pending with the NYSED Board of Regents.”
In January 2016, Kanani announced in an e-mail that the school had lost accreditation and could no longer be a degree-granting institution: “It is with deep regret that we have to announce that after careful review of the various options available to Bramson ORT College, including appealing of the NYSED Board of Regents’ decision to deny the institution’s accreditation, our Board of Trustees have decided not to appeal the NYSED Board of Regents’ decision. As a result, our Board has instructed us to engage in the teach out process for our current students.”
Two weeks later, a college fair helping students transition to nearby institutions was announced on the college’s Facebook page.
Brandon Mitchell, a spokesman at World ORT’s American branch said Bramson operated independently from the organization with a board of directors who ran the school.
“When they lost it (the accreditation), their board made the decision to close the school and informed our board of the decision,” Mitchell said. “It was a surprise to many of us here when we found out about it, and a disappointment to many of our donors.”
Jay Rivera, who graduated from Bramson in spring 2016, was not surprised.
“I heard the rumors. When I came back from Christmas break that January (2016), the writing was on the wall,” he said. “You walk into a place and you just kind of get the feel. I turned to my mother and said,‘If the school’s there in a year, I’ll be shocked.’”
Cassandra Stamand graduated from Bramson in 2016. She learned about the school’s closure when she received a letter in the mail in January stating she could be eligible for loan forgiveness because of the closure.
“Bramson was a really good school; a lot of students wished it was a four-year school,” she said. “When I heard the school was closing, it was kind of like a slap in the face to be honest.”
Stamand said she called another former student and friend to ask if the news was true; her friend recommended she go and get her transcript before she could no longer access it through the college.