SAN DIEGO - ITT Technical Institutes in National City and Vista are among the campuses permanently shuttered following a ruling barring the for-profit college from accepting new students who receive federal financial aid.
Following a lengthy investigation, the U.S. Department of Education determined ITT Tech's parent company, Indiana-based ITT Educational Services Inc., was not in compliance with criteria set by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.
In addition to the financial aid sanction, the federal agency planned to ramp up its oversight of the college's finances due to "significant concerns" about its administrative capacity, organizational integrity, financial viability and ability to serve students.
"Our responsibility is first and foremost to protect students and taxpayers," U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said. "Looking at all of the risk factors, it's clear that we need increased financial protection and that it simply would not be responsible or in the best interest of students to allow ITT to continue enrolling new students who rely on federal student aid funds."
ITT Educational Services Inc. officials said the Department of Education's sanctions forced them to cease operations and cancel trade school classes for the September quarter. The company has also fired most of its employees, excluding those kept on to assist students with obtaining their records and assessing their educational options.
"It is with profound regret that we must report that ITT Educational Services Inc. will discontinue academic operations at all of its ITT Technical Institutes permanently after approximately 50 years of continuous service," according to a company statement. "With what we believe is a complete disregard by the U.S. Department of Education for due process to the company, hundreds of thousands of current students and alumni and more than 8,000 employees will be negatively affected."
Officials with ITT Educational Services said the government actions affecting its estimated 140 ITT Technical Institutes in 35 states were "inappropriate and unconstitutional." The ruling came down without a hearing, and the company was not allowed to appeal it.
ITT Tech students already enrolled in classes can continue to apply for federal financial aid to finish their coursework elsewhere, and may be eligible for a federal loan discharge, according to the Department of Education.
"It was a great place for learning and creating things, and accomplishing your goals," said Felicia, an ITT student.
Felicia is not only out of a school, she's also out of a job. She's a few weeks away from graduation, and said the school was about to hire her.
"I was actually about to go through the hiring process to become the marketing secretary here at ITT Tech," she said, adding that she's got $20,000 in federal student loan debt.
Felicia expressed confidence that she'd land a new job with the skills she learned at ITT Tech.
"I know how to do amazing PowerPoints, I know how to create data, I know how to call prospective employers and help students get jobs," she said.
The San Diego Community College District released a statement that said its staff is exploring how the SDCCD might be able to help ITT Tech students.
"For some local ITT students, continuing their education at City, Mesa or Miramar college may be a good option -- but these students may face some challenges transferring their coursework," the statement says. "Since ITT Tech was not regionally accredited, students seeking to transfer credits may need to pursue credit by examination."
The district said it welcomed inquiries from ITT Tech students because it offers similar programs in career technical fields.
Coleman University announced it will accept students currently enrolled in four programs at ITT Tech, regardless of the length of time they have been in their degree programs.
“We were sorry to hear about the shutdown of ITT Tech campuses. Coleman is ready to help ITT Tech students from National City and Vista complete their degree programs, and we have taken steps to help ensure a smooth transition between programs,” said Norbert J. Kubilus, President and CEO, Coleman University. “We have identified six ITT Tech degree programs from which students can transfer a large number of ITT Tech units into our Cybersecurity and Software Development degree programs.”
Coleman University will accept almost all ITT Tech units for bachelor degree programs for Information Systems and Cybersecurity and Software Development, and over half of the units for Network Systems and Software Development associate degree programs. Students in the Electrical Engineering degree programs may transfer up to one-third of the ITT Tech units into Coleman’s Cybersecurity degree programs. Coleman is waiving the Application Fee and degree residency requirements for students transferring from ITT Tech programs.
ITT Tech's closure comes as the federal government continues to strengthen regulations on for-profit trade schools.
Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission sued the operators of DeVry University, alleging, "DeVry's advertisements deceived consumers about the likelihood that students would find jobs in their fields of study, and would earn more than those graduating with bachelor's degrees from other colleges or universities."
The Department of Education also proposed changes to its borrower defense program to try and get loan forgiveness to consumers if they believe their college defrauded them.
Resources are available to help protect consumers. The FTC has information on how to choose a vocational school and the questions you need to ask, such as cost, accreditation and success rate.