SAN JOSE -- The owner of California's Bryman College chain -- with campuses in San Jose, Hayward, San Francisco and Los Angeles -- is in financial trouble and could close.

San Jose-based BioHealth College, Inc., filed for bankruptcy Friday in the Northern District of California. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education placed the company on a heightened financial monitoring status, according to a spokesman for the California private-college oversight bureau.

That sanction could slow the flow of federal student aid dollars to the colleges, which would likely hasten their demise.

The colleges were open Tuesday -- and BioHealth's website made no mention of the news -- but it's unclear how long they will be able to keep going or if they will be put on the market.

"We don't really know what it means," said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for California's Department for Consumer Affairs. "Some schools when they declare bankruptcy will try to arrange teach-outs for their students. Some schools up and close their doors."

A teach-out occurs when a closing school allows its students to complete their programs.BioHealth acquired four campuses early last year from another troubled California company, Corinthian Colleges, Inc., and changed their names from Everest College to Bryman College.

In an unusual arrangement, Corinthian paid BioHealth $2.3 million in January 2013 to take ownership of the campuses, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. (Federal financial sanctions imposed last month forced Corinthian to wind down its operations; it plans to sell most of its remaining campuses, including its five Bay Area Heald and WyoTech colleges.)


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But before long it went into the red. In its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, BioHealth's owner reported liabilities of between $1 million and $10 million -- and assets of just $50,000. In May, a lawyer for its San Jose landlord said the company owed $82,000 in rent.

BioHealth President and CEO Sam Shirazi did not respond to messages Tuesday seeking comment about his plans for the colleges, and the company's bankruptcy lawyer was not immediately available.

The colleges offer seven-month medical assisting and other health-care programs, according to its website and the state Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education.

BioTech's website does not include the number of students at its colleges, and a staff member who answered BioTech's phone Tuesday said that information was not available. Heimerich estimated the colleges' combined enrollment is well under a thousand.

BioHealth was founded in 2003 and had fewerthan 200 students before it acquired the former Everest campuses.

If its campuses close without giving the students a chance to complete their programs, the students will get refunds or loan discharges from the college, the U.S. Department of Education or the California Student Tuition Recovery Fund, Heimerich said.

A sign of the business's financial troubles appeared in May, when Bryman's San Jose campus on South Winchester Boulevard was temporarily shuttered following the rent dispute. At the time, Shirazi dismissed concerns about the temporary shutdown -- and the eviction notices from the sheriff's department.

"It's business as usual," he told a reporter. "We just had a dispute. It's all taken care of."

Reporter Tracy Seipel contributed to this story. Follow Katy Murphy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.