ITT students lost veteran benefits, loans, time and dreams
Phillip Brown of Carpentersville was eight months away from graduating with a bachelor's degree when his school, ITT Technical Institute in Oak Brook, suddenly shut down this week.
The U.S. Army Purple Heart veteran, who was wounded during a bomb blast in Iraq, already used up about $90,000 in veteran benefits at ITT. He now faces finding a new school and getting a student loan. The prospect of paying out of pocket, after all the time and money already spent, upsets him.
"I only have two quarters of classes left to get my bachelor's degree (in infrastructure and cyber security). And now they are closed, so I will have to start over," said Brown, 32.
Brown isn't the only one. Brown, Kelly McLoughlin of Elgin and Ryan Doran of Kankakee were among 35,000 students told Tuesday that ITT was closing its 137 campuses nationwide, including those in Arlington Heights, Oak Brook and Orland Park.
The U.S. Department of Education, which had been investigating the for-profit school, offered stranded students two options if they have loans. Students could have the ITT loan forgiven, but then lose their credits and start over. Or they could pay off the ITT student loan and get a new loan to finish at a new school. Numerous students have said they could not find another school to accept their ITT credits, but ITT's website at http://itt-tech.info/ on Thursday listed schools it said "may provide you with an opportunity to complete your program of study." Some colleges also pledged to ease the transfer process for ITT students.
The school's parent company, ITT Educational Services Inc. in Carmel, Indiana, said it was a casualty of tighter government oversight and had no choice but to close. "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," an ITT statement said.
Brown, who works from his home as a support engineer for California-based IT firm Xantrion, said his ITT experience started great at the Arlington Heights campus but later began to present problems. He transferred to the Oak Brook campus near his previous job and said he had unresolved complaints with the school about books and supplies he paid for but did not receive and about the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs being billed for classes he did not attend.
McLoughlin, 30, who was enrolled at the Arlington Heights campus, said she must decide what to do with a $29,000 ITT student loan. Whatever her decision is, it will delay her bachelor's degree in cyber security and lead to more lost time and child care costs for her 1-month-old son.
Doran graduated in 2011 with an associate degree in drafting and design from ITT, but he said it cost him $60,000 in student loans that he continues to pay in $700 monthly installments.
"I got ripped off big time," said Doran, 28, who works for Bimba Manufacturing in Monee and attended the Orland Park campus.
"I had three to five teachers I feel like I really benefitted from," he said. "The others I could have done their job for them. Some never got past just reading from their Power Point presentations."
Here's help for ITT students, workersHere are some resources for students and employees left stranded Tuesday when ITT Technical Institute suddenly closed:
• ITT's website at http://itt-tech.info/ now includes a list of resources, including transfer options.
• The U.S. Department of Education said it will directly email students to inform them of their options. A schedule of informational webinars is at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/about/announcements/itt.
• The DuPage County Workforce Development Division is seeking to help displaced employees with career transition, regardless of the county they live in. An information program is set for 1 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 2525 Cabot Drive, Suite 302, Lisle. Affected workers can learn more about Illinois unemployment insurance benefits, Illinois JobLink service, health coverage options, and employment and training programs funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. They may be eligible for other services as well, and should contact Susi Pihera, rapid response liaison for the DuPage County Workforce Development Division, at (630) 955.204 or email Spihera@worknetdupage.org.
-- Anna Marie Kukec