Forty-one students were enrolled in classes at ITT’s Madison campus on Rimrock Road when the closure was announced. Another 250 were at a campus in Greenfield, and 35,000 were enrolled in 38 states.
Those who took out loans to pay tuition, as a vast majority of ITT students did, can apply for a loan discharge from the federal government that will wipe out their debt. But it will require them to forfeit the credits they spent months or years earning.
The other option for students is to keep those credits and try to continue their degree by transferring to another college, which would mean staying on the hook for their loans. Other schools might not accept all of the credits students earned at ITT, which would set them back on their path to a diploma.
The only way students can transfer schools and have their loans discharged is if the program they enter at their new college is in a different field from the one they studied at ITT.
Further complicating their decisions, students say they have been frustrated by long waits to receive their ITT transcripts, conflicting information from officials and a lack of answers from other colleges about how many of their credits will transfer.
Crandall said he was told he could lose more than half of his credits if he enrolled at another school, but said he has not been able to get a definitive answer from Madison Area Technical College about how many will transfer.
He doesn’t have many other options, though.
Crandall, who spent 11 years in the Marine Corps, said he paid for his ITT tuition through the GI Bill, the Department of Veterans Affairs program that covers veterans’ education costs for up to 36 months. Federal officials say the benefits Crandall and other veterans used while attending ITT won’t be refunded, so he plans to finish his degree.
Left ‘to fend for ourselves’
Although state regulators have sought to provide students with information about their options, several said their former school has not been helpful.
“ITT, in my eyes, is not helping anybody,” said Jerry Field, a student from Watertown who, like several others, said his calls and emails to the college haven’t been returned. “It’s like all the faculty and the school itself disappeared overnight.”
“They basically left us to fend for ourselves,” student Shayba Pierce said. “I’m just in a stand-still, because I don’t know what to do.”
ITT was one of the biggest for-profit college chains in the country but had faced increasing scrutiny from federal regulators in recent years.
In August, the U.S. Department of Education barred ITT from enrolling new students who used federal financial aid, saying the company had become a risk to students and taxpayers; ITT blamed the closure in part on that action.
Other colleges locally and across the country have sought to attract former ITT students, encouraging those who want to complete their degrees to transfer.
Keith Cornille, MATC’s senior vice president for student development and success, said students need only provide the college with their transcript to get the process started.
Cornille said he was surprised by the difficulty Crandall faced, and said MATC has set up a team to help students like those from ITT whose colleges have closed.
“We’re here to support any of those students and answer their questions … whether (they are from) ITT or any other institution,” Cornille said.Three former ITT students have enrolled at MATC so far, he said.
Confusion over degree
Brenda Williams of Fitchburg would like to join them, but in an example of the confusion many ITT students have faced since the school’s closure, she must first figure out whether she graduated from her program at ITT.
Williams said she completed the last courses for her business management degree at ITT during the summer term that wrapped up just before the school shut down, then was told she would not get her diploma because of the closure.
“It was a kick in the stomach,” she said.
But David Dies, executive director of the Educational Approval Board, which regulates for-profit colleges, said anyone who finished their program before the closure will eventually receive their credential, meaning Williams would have her degree after all.
There was another wrinkle, however — although Williams said she has paperwork from ITT saying she finished her program, the Educational Approval Board’s records indicate she was short of the number of credits needed to graduate.
Dies said Monday that he has asked Parchment, a digital credential service that is helping ITT students get copies of their transcripts, to look into whether Williams completed her program.
Williams said she plans to enroll in an 18-month medical assistant program at MATC in January. For now, though, she must wait to find out whether her time at ITT will end with a diploma.
“It’s hard to stay encouraged,” Williams said. “It just keeps pushing me down.”
(c)2016 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.) — at www.wisconsinstatejournal.com
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