College leaves students abandoned

About 45,000 students were prepared to start classes this month at ITT Technical Institute, but then received an email on Sept. 7 about their college permanently closing due to federal and state investigations, according to the Pierce College website.

The Education Department has begun reaching out to community colleges near ITT campuses to encourage them to accept students.

Founded in 1969, the for-profit technical institutes had more than 130 campuses in 38 states, and eight campuses in the Los Angeles area.

According to Rolf Schleicher, vice president of administrative services, ITT lost their financial aid because they did not comply with the accreditation standards.

“When you lose financial aid it’s really hard to keep operation open because that’s the bulk of what their students were supported by to pay their high tuition,” Schleicher said.

Schleicher thinks ITT oversold what they could provide to the students, and the consequences are that students have high debt and need to find a way to get their degree or certification elsewhere.

“It’s horrible for the students. Absolutely horrible. It was almost inevitable when you charge that kind of high tuition and the students can’t get the jobs that they promised them,” Schleicher said. “It becomes a problem in the long run.”

Schleicher said the Academic Affairs Department, Student Services and the President Kathleen Burke, are currently looking into accepting students, but there are many requirements before a student can qualify for admittance.

According Juan Carlos Astorga, dean of student engagement, if ITT students want their units transferred to another school, then they have to pay off their loans. Otherwise, if they want debt forgiveness, they would have to start over at a new school.

“It’s like they told a lie,” Astorga said. “They promised an education, but the students didn’t get it.”

According to Schleicher, ITT failed to inform their students and faculty before closing their doors.

“That’s not a good design. Even for a company that’s going out of business, they should still try to set up their clientele and their customers so that they have an opportunity to go somewhere else,” Schleicher said. “But they didn’t do that. They just kind of shut the doors and said ‘Oh well, we’re not available for service’. That’s a bad way to run your business.”

According to the ITT Technical Institute website, ITT had a decline of enrollment last year. Last year the college enrolled about 45,000 students, and more than 8,000 employees lost their jobs without receiving any notice beforehand.

“Who’s going to advise the student of what’s the best option if they have $50,000 worth of debt,” Schleicher said. “The problem is who’s giving that advice to them and how sound is that advice because you have IRS complications inside.”

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Information Technology David Schamus, created a document with his recommendations on how to help ITT students. Schamus then submitted it to the president, vice president, academic senate president, and AFT chapter president.

“Part of the problems noted along the way are that while ITT recruited a lot of students, and many of those students ended up with student loans, those same students may not have successfully either completed their education or obtained relevant employment,” Schamus said.

According to Schamus, like the LACCD Promise, he would like to see a similar strategy for ITT students who qualify.

“My recommendation to the administration to help ITT students either complete a degree program or complete a certificate program,” Schamus said. “This helps the students get jobs and it helps Pierce show that we succeed in helping students succeed.”

According to Schleicher, there might be a lawsuit against ITT college.

“There’s a number of things we’re trying to figure out. We’re trying to make sure we look into everything beforehand so that we don’t false promise our students, or potential students from ITT, and then later on hurt them economically,” Schleicher said. “Because there could be lawsuits from that as well.”

According to The Board policy, “ITT students can still be assisted by our colleges and enter into our programs. In fact, foregoing the transfer of credits will allow the students to have their loans waived. In addition, we can offer them the opportunity to demonstrate the learning from ITT through credit by examination.”

There are a number of requirements that the student must qualify for before being granted credit by examination.

According to The Board policy, student must be currently registered and in good standing and not in academic or progress probation. Student must have completed 12 units within the Los Angeles Community College District. Individual colleges may develop and publish policies to exempt students from this requirements.

Such policies shall be developed in accordance with the provisions of Chapter XVIII of the Board Rules, Academic Senate and Board of Trustees Shared Governance Policy.

Student must not be currently enrolled in or have completed a more advanced course in this discipline.

“Students still need financial support. So that’s where the Student Services division comes in,” Schleicher said. “We’ll look at the programs they want to get into, how do they make sure the students get appropriate credit.”

Schleicher said those students might have to test into classes, due to some limitations to how many tests and credits you can apply.

“It’s going to be complicated. But I know there’s a movement on that district wide and potentially to Pierce College,” Schleicher said.

“It’s pretty complicated for the students. So if something like this happens it’s pretty significant, and I think ITT almost held that above the students in a particular time, because in reality they need the education. They may look somewhere else, but they felt that ITT was going to support them,” Schleicher said. “And ITT disappeared from the landscape, kind of let them high and dry,without a path to get integrated into some other community college or university,”