The closure of ITT Technical Institute is leaving thousands of students with few options and lots of debt. ITT Tech is the latest for-profit college to shut down after the federal government increased oversight. It’s facing federal fraud charges and had been blocked from accepting new students who receive federal financial aid. But the abrupt closure has caught many students off guard, and some are angry and looking for answers.
Princess Hobb was looking forward to graduating next year with a nursing degree from ITT Technical Center in Tallahassee. Until she got word this week that her school is now closed.
“I’m a wife, I’m a mother. I have four children. Every day they would pray for me, prayed for my exams? Every day I came home, they asked mom did you pass your exams? Is it over?”
She starts to get choked up.
“Now what am I supposed to tell them?” I’m not going to have a degree because this happened. And I tried to be strong, and fight, and I think I’m just in shock because I don’t know where to go or what to do.”
Hobb was among several now former ITT Technical Center students who called a press conference Wednesday after the announcement of nationwide closure came out. The federal government says current and former students are eligible to have their federal loans forgiven. But that’s not the case for veterans who may have used the G.I. Bill. Center for American Progress’ Ben Miller says over the years, ITT Tech’s management made a series of business decisions that weakened the quality of education and hurt the company’s finances. A few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education issued an ultimatum:
“The department of education said in order to keep operating ITT you have to provide additional funds in case you go out of business you have money to make students and taxpayers whole, and you can’t enroll new students receiving federal financial aid,” explained Miller.
“And in response to those conditions, ITT decided to close its doors about a week before starting new classes for the fall.”
The for-profit college industry has been under federal scrutiny for years due to unfair recruitment practices, predatory lending, and false advertising—in many cases promising students jobs that never materialize, with degrees that aren’t recognized by other schools or even businesses. At its peak, ITT Tech had more than 80,000 students. It was half of that when it shut down. And while there are programs in place for students who received federal financial aid to have that debt forgiven, students can’t get back the time they spent:
“That said, people have invested a lot of time, and they may get their money back, but time is not free. And it’s very scary to think you spent a lot of time in a program that you have nothing to show for,” said Miller.
“It’s not a light situation, It’s not easy. But I think for a lot of people, they can’t get the years they spent in a program back, but not being stuck with unaffordable debt will be better for them in the long run.”
That said, there are exceptions. Veterans who may have used the G.I. Bill, won’t get their money back. And neither will students who may have taken out private loans to supplement their education. That money is gone. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson wants the U.S. Department of Education department to keep ITT Tech students informed and provide them access to transcripts and records. But that may do little good. Few non-profit institutions accept for-profit transfers and those credits may not transfer.