Nearly 200 students frustrated after Memphis barber schools, beauty school abruptly shut down

WATCH: Nearly 200 students frustrated after Memphis barber schools, beauty school abruptly shut down

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A nearly 20-year-old Memphis-area educational institution for barbers shut down Monday – and it was no joke.

“Everybody thought it was an April Fools’ joke,” said De’Angelo Ivory.

Ivory started his education at The Barber School on Jackson Avenue in August 2018.

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He showed up for classes bright and early before 7 a.m. on Monday, like any other day, and noticed a sign in the window.

The sign, hanging juxtaposed to a large window sticker that reads “now enrolling,” reads, “The Department of Education has denied this institution to receive financial aid.”

The date of closure: March 31.

But Ivory and others arrived at school without any forewarning.

“They done closed the school down and didn’t inform nobody about it or nothing,” said Milton Garrett, a student at The Barber School since November 2018. “I didn’t find out until I went to the door.”

Torrus Brooks, the owner of The Barber School, acknowledged he didn’t let students know until Monday.

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Brooks found out late Friday afternoon from the federal Department of Education that the school would lose Title IV funding.

At that point, he decided to shut down the school on Jackson Avenue, The Beauty School across the street and two other barber school locations.

The warning signs were there.

Brooks was notified by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences that the school lost its accreditation in September 2018.

“At a meeting held August 22, 2018, the Board of Commissioners of [NACCAS] considered the record of the referenced institution regarding compliance with Standard VII (standard of financial practices and management),” executive director Tony Mirando wrote in a letter to Brooks. “It is with regret that we notify you the Commission acted to withdraw accreditation from the institution for the reasons given in the enclosed Attachment A.”

The letter later pointed to four requirements for Standard VII compliance.

The Barber School did not meet requirements, according to NACCAS, for two standards in two consecutive fiscal years.

NACCAS requires schools to have a composite score of 1.5 or higher; The Barber School had a 1.2 and a 1.3 in FY2016 and FY2017, respectively.

It also requires schools to have a current ratio of current assets to current liabilities at 1:1 or greater. The Barber School failed to meet that requirement, according to NACCAS, having a 0.48:1 in fiscal year 2016 and a 0.46:1 in fiscal year 2017.

The Department of Education provided that letter to FOX13 after our interview with Brooks.

“To do a school without funding, how would we do a school? That’s the very same reason why we’re closing now,” said Brooks. “It’s not because the Title IV funding got pulled, but the students wouldn’t have funding to pay us, so we could afford to give the same quality education.”

Brooks said he's working on a teach-out plan so students can enroll with other local barber shops.
The accreditation removal letter from NACCAS said Brooks had to submit a teach-out plan.

A message left with the legal department at NACCAS has not been returned.

Some students told FOX13 on Monday they already started applying with Vibe Barber College.

FOX13 reached out to the state Department of Commerce & Insurance early Monday afternoon about comment on the closure of Brooks’ businesses.

Kevin Walters, communication director for the Department of Commerce & Insurance, said in an email that the department “received no advance notice from Torrus Brooks of the closures of the four licenses schools he operated.”

The department’s license search and verification website shows that The Barber School has three business licenses.

One license expired on March 25, another is set to expire on April 2, and a third license is active until September 17.

The Beauty School, also owned by Brooks, has an active license until September 2019, according to the Department of Commerce & Insurance’s license verification page.

Brooks said he did not know when his state licenses were set to expire.

Walters said there are 107 full-time students and 14 part-time students between the four licenses.

Brooks acknowledged to FOX13 his schools have 180 total students.

Below is the full statement from the Department of Commerce & Insurance:

"The Department of Commerce & Insurance received no advance notice from Torrus Brooks of the closures of the four licensed schools he operated.
Between the four licenses, there are 107 full-time students and 14 part-time.
Students can consider transferring to a new institution to complete their education. Students are encouraged to reach out directly to institutions in which they are interested in attending to determine whether hours will transfer and financial aid options available at that institution. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) has requested that the institution immediately provide documentation of completed hours.
The school owner has advised the Department that withdrawal documents, which will include copies of transcripts, are being prepared to be sent out to the students, the Department, and THEC. We anticipate it will take several days for this process to be completed.
In compliance with federal and Tennessee law, student records will be maintained by THEC. Transcripts will not be available until a later date. At this time THEC does not have the transcripts but THEC has a website about the closure here.
At this time, the Department does not have additional information about this matter. We are waiting on the school to submit information in writing for the Department to disseminate. It is possible that a complaint could be opened by the Board at a later date depending upon the facts that may be obtained regarding this matter."