For too long, bad actors in the for-profit college sector have been allowed to prey on students, leaving them unable to secure the good-paying jobs they were promised, and trapped under a mountain of debt. And this month has given us the latest example, with the closure of the for-profit college ITT Technical Institute.
Earlier this month, the Department of Education took action to protect students and taxpayers from abusive practices by ITT by banning the school from enrolling new students using federal financial aid funds. Following that crackdown, last week ITT announced it is closing its doors.
ITT’s unfair and often fraudulent practices have left hundreds of thousands of students with worthless degrees or credits, limited job prospects, and tens of thousands of dollars in loan debt. By taking action to hold ITT accountable, the Department of Education sent a clear signal that ripping off students and taxpayers will not be tolerated — no matter how big the school or how many lobbyists it employs.
Putting an end to ITT’s unacceptable behavior was the right thing to do. At the same time, we have a responsibility to assist ITT’s current students who have done nothing wrong.
ITT has nine campuses across Ohio and some 1,500 Ohio students could be affected. We need to make sure they have access to the resources they need to move forward with their lives and their education.
Current ITT students have two options:
First, they may be able to transfer their credits to a different school — we have great schools in Ohio, particularly our community colleges, and I hope that Ohio’s ITT students will look into this option and continue their education. But I caution students to look closely at their credits, and make sure they fully understand which ITT credits will transfer and which will not.
Second, students who can’t or don’t want to transfer their credits to the same program of study at another school can apply to have their federal student loans discharged. Students who go this route will have their debt wiped clean and will have the option to restart their education somewhere new.
ITT students should visit studentaid.gov/ITT, or contact my office at brown.senate.gov, to find out more. We understand this can be a stressful and confusing process, and we want Ohio students to know we are here to help.
Every student’s situation is different — some were close to graduating, and for them the best option may be to attempt to transfer their credits. That’s why we’re encouraging community colleges to work with ITT students to find ways to complete their degrees.
For others who had just enrolled, having their loans discharged and restarting their education with a clean slate may be a better option.
Whatever path students choose, they deserve better than the exploitative practices of ITT.
Too many for-profit schools like ITT have subjected their students to unfair and abusive practices, putting their own profits and their pursuit of federal student aid dollars ahead of providing the best education for Ohioans. For-profit colleges represent just 12 percent of all higher education students, but they account for more than 40 percent of all student loan defaults.
That’s why last year I introduced the Students Before Profits Act, which would hold for-profit schools and their executives accountable for misleading students. I also introduced the Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act, which would prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for advertising, marketing, and recruitment — because taxpayer money should be used for educating students, not for producing glossy brochures or television ads.
Of course, not all for-profit colleges are bad — there are some very good schools who use the for-profit model. But as ITT’s closure shows, far too often, that is the exception, not the rule. And our students and our taxpayers deserve better.
The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.