By: Niki Howland
I’m Niki Howland, a defrauded student and borrower of ITT Technical Institute. I attended in 2002-2004 in Albuquerque, NM. When I enrolled I was 18, unemployed and without a vehicle. My goal was to break the cycle of poverty in my family. It turned out that going to college was the costliest mistake of my life. With the documents I saved I can prove my loans are predatory.
As a victim of the for-profit scam, I've learned that you cannot trust that these schools or the Department of Education are going to tell you the truth. I am writing this blog to provide basic information to students and borrowers (regardless of what school you attend) on the rights you have if your school is closing or offering you a "teach out." By becoming my own advocate, I also had to become an expert in the ways that for-profit schools and the Department of Education try to take advantage of many first-generation college students and people without a lot of money.
I was inspired to write this blog post when, on October 10, 2015, I came across an article posted by WSBT-channel 22 local news in Indiana that gave a very vague announcement that the ITT Technical Institute in South Bend, IN would no longer accept new students. I am of the belief that they will close the South Bend campus around June of 2017 when the last block of graduates completes their programs. Other campuses will follow. I and other former students have been following this story, and we are shocked and outraged that there is such little information provided to the public on what this means for current students enrolled at these campuses. We wonder what ‘currently not accepting new students’ means? Is this campus closing for good? Are students being adequately informed of their options? Most importantly, what does this means in terms of the future for ITT Tech as a whole? The lack of information from the Department of Education became even more alarming when we recently learned that the goverment is restricting ITT Tech's access to federal aid.
It seems like the Department of Education doesn't want us to know what is going on. Why is nothing made public on the DOE site, including more detailed and clarifying information about ITT Technical Institute's closures? So far, we can only trace generic information via ACICS (Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools), ITT's national accreditor. According to their website, there are currently 8 ITT Tech campuses that have closed and 12 campuses offering teach outs.
What is a teach out?
When a campus closes and you are currently enrolled, it is important to know that the school will try to offer you a “teach out” as a way to complete the program you are enrolled in. In the case of a campus closure, the school will likely try to push you to transfer to a different for-profit school where your credits will transfer. Your credits will not transfer to a legitimate public college, unless that school has agreed to make special arrangements for students from a closed school. Accepting a transfer or a “teach out” is completing the program and disqualifies you for debt discharge according to the Department of Education. The Department of Education’s website also proclaims:
“You may be eligible for a 100% discharge of your Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans, or Federal Perkins Loans under either of these circumstances:
● Your school closes while you're enrolled, and you do not complete your program because of the closure. If you were on an approved leave of absence, you are considered to have been enrolled at the school.
● Your school closes within 120 days after you withdraw.”
If the school closes and holds no credibility, why is our student debt being enforced?
Will we see this company collapse behind closed doors like we saw with Corinthian Colleges? It seems likely since the Department of Education along with the CFPB, the Department of Justice and thirteen US State Attorneys General are investigating ITT Tech.
Even though some currently enrolled students will be eligible for a closed school discharge, former ITT students are left with their debt.
With all the legal action being pursued against ITT, I believe the executives got together and decided to consolidate their assets by closing the campuses that are not as lucrative as others. We are witnessing the beginning of the full-on decline of a corporate racket.
According to all available information, including from an ITT spokesperson, the following campuses are no longer enrolling new students.
ITT Technical Institute (formerly Deerfield Beach) 00070461(BC)Ft. Lauderdale, Florida September 7, 2015
ITT Technical Institute (formerly Cary)
00023854(B) Durham, North Carolina June 8, 2015
ITT Technical Institute (formerly Culver City) 00022752(B) Torrance, California June 8, 2015
ITT Technical Institute 00039170(B) Bradenton, Florida March 15, 2015
ITT Technical Institute 00031637(B) Cedar Rapids, Iowa December 31, 2014
ITT Technical Institute (formerly Germantown) 00096924(B) Greenfield, Wisconsin December 28, 2014
ITT Technical Institute (formerly West Covina) 00022947(B) San Dimas, California December 7, 2014
ITT Technical Institute 00073448 Wyoming, Michigan June 16, 2014
After digging deeper into the matter I found 12 campuses that are not reported on the ACICS website. The schools below are teaching out (i.e., closing). I have called these schools or viewed their website to confirm.
Campuses teaching out and no longer accepting students
Green Bay WI Denver CO Pittsburgh PA Scranton PA South Bend IN Wichita KS, Des Moines IA Madison WI Springfield MO Johnson City TN Myrtle Beach SC Overland Park KS
Combining both ITT and ACICS site’s data, I found that there are 20 ITT Tech campuses closing. ITT Tech is consolidating their assets and quietly closing the less lucrative campuses. The Department of Education has said NOTHING of this. There is no official press regarding ITT Tech campus closures from our very own government. You deserve to know the truth.
If you are a student at one of these closed schools, please join our Facebook page, ITT Tech Warriors. Please share your story. This may shed light on a grim and dark process that is wreaking havoc on thousands of family's lives every day.
More Info on Campus Closures & Teach Outs
Early this spring, we learned more about the closed school process and teach outs from the collapse of Corinthian Colleges (including Everest, Heald, and Wyotech campuses). Advocates from the Debt Collective and students stood outside the Heald College San Francisco location on April 26, 2015 and witnessed the confusion first hand. ITT Tech took advantage of the chaos by going to the campuses and recruiting students impacted by the Heald closure. In doing so, they encouraging students to waive their right to a full loan discharge and instead transfer their credit and finish their degrees at another for-profit college.
Here is what a student must know and what the Department of Education has failed to make it clear or easy for defrauded students to understand!
You should be careful not to sign any documents with the school agreeing to continue your program with them as a “teach out”, or to transfer your credits to other locations or schools to complete your degree. If you agree to a teach out, you may be waiving your eligibility for a discharge of your loans.
As a student and a borrower, I want to tell you that you're better off fighting for a FULL loan discharge. What we have learned, and what the Department of Education is not telling students, is that if your school closes while you are enrolled you have a right to file for a "closed school" discharge instead of accepting a teach out.
You Have Options
Please know, there is support for students and borrowers and we do not have to face these challenges alone. In my experience it has been the valiant efforts of the Debt Collective and Corinthian Strikers that make it possible for individuals to dispute and challenge these illegitimate debts. Going directly to the heart of the issue by tackling the unreasonably confusing process set forward by the Department of Education, the Debt Collective and defrauded students have created online resources and support groups, using technology to simplify the process for the victims.
If you are a defrauded student and borrower from any campus, use the Defense to Repayment (DTR) application to submit directly to the Department of Education. It is a legal dispute of your federal loans. The Department has agreed to review all Defense to Repayment claims. While filling out the form doesn't guarantee a discharge of your loans, it helps us keep the pressure on the Department to do its job and cancel this unjust and illegitimate debt. For more information on the kind of evidence to submit with your DTR, go to the Debt Collective wiki page for for-profit fraud. By working together and by refusing to be silenced, we will get justice for ourselves and for all defrauded students debtors across the country.