By Abigail Meller, a Fall 2016 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern
Earlier this month, ITT Educational Services, Inc. announced that it would close every single ITT Technical Institute campus. The announcement came just one week after the U.S. Department of Education increased its oversight of the for-profit college.
Over the years, the school’s been the subject of state and federal investigations – and for good reason. A former ITT professor stated that at one point an ITT Tech campus was “recruiting students for a degree they wouldn’t be able to use for jobs in criminal justice because of their criminal history. That’s when I realized it was really more about the money than the education.” While ITT Tech’s goal may have always been about money, it’s now clear that their revenue was specifically obtained from federal student aid supplied by taxpayers. Their business model significantly depended on federal education funds from student loans, which accounted for more than half (65.8 percent) of its revenue in 2010. Similarly, ITT Tech tripled the amount of Pell grant funds it collected from 2007 to 2010.
It’s long been argued that for-profit colleges don’t have students’ best interests at heart – only their own. From allegations of allowing plagiarism to predatory lending, ITT Tech is no exception. Earlier this month, some students struck back. With the help of an organization that organizes actions against for-profits like ITT Tech and Corinthians, more than 1,500 former ITT Tech students submitted petitions to get their federal student loans discharged. This is an important step towards restarting their future educations without the burden of unfair debt.
In fact, all ITT Tech students enrolled during May, June, July, August, or September of 2016 may be eligible to have their federal student loans cancelled. As an alternative, students can opt to have their credits transferred to another institution. However, this option may cause a loss of the right to a refund. The American Federation of Teachers advises that all former ITT Tech students carefully choose their next steps. Any special “limited time” deals or temporary scholarships may be targeted to former ITT Tech students by for-profit institutions similar to ITT Tech, like the University of Phoenix, which is also under investigation.
Students can look up their current federal loan debt, determine if they are eligible for free legal aid, and research more information from the CFPB about ITT’s closure and all types of student loans to help in choosing their next steps. Hopefully this will shed further light on for-profit colleges’ deceptive practices of targeting vulnerable populations, and as a result, decrease the amount of crushing student debt while increasing opportunities for students to obtain a quality education.