JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One day after ITT Tech closed its campuses nationwide, the Department of Education hosted webinars for students of the for-profit college, letting them known their options for continuing their education, transferring credits and paying off student loans.
Thousands of students nationwide, including hundreds in Jacksonville, abruptly had their education put on hold when the company abruptly shut down just over a week after the federal government issued sanctions, including a ban on enrolling new students who rely on federal financial aid.
On Tuesday, ITT Tech announced the closures of more than 130 campuses in 38 states "with profound regret." ITT Tech has nine campuses in Florida, including the one in Jacksonville, with four more in Georgia.
Many of those who attended ITT Tech were active duty military and veterans.
"This is very disappointing news certainly for military members who have relied on institutions, in particular ITT Tech, to support their bachelor's degrees and higher education needs, but also veterans who are trying to make that successful transition from military service to civilian life and take care of their families," retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Victor Guillory said.
University of North Florida officials said they have received several calls from former ITT students looking for guidance.
"Most of the calls that came yesterday were panicked individuals," Guillory said. "They just received an email that said the school was closing and they didn't know what their options were." said Diane Stover with UNF's Military and Veterans' Service Center.
Stover said the most common question was if the vets can use their G.I. Bill at a different school.
"The answer, most times, is yes," Stover said. "And yes, you can transfer schools. It happens quite a bit. You can start school in one location and transfer schools and bring your G.I. Bill with you, as long as you have that eligibility.
SJRSC has scheduled an open house for the displaced students at its Orange Park campus at 5 p.m. Sept. 20.
Students find campus closed
Doors at the campus on A.C. Skinner Parkway were locked Tuesday, but faculty and staff were seen headed into the building with boxes. Students who arrived at the school reacted with a mixture of surprise, disappointment and anger.
"My parents were happy to be seeing me doing something well because none of my family members ever graduated college," former ITT Tech student Klaudia Hoxha said. "They were happy, now they're sad again. It makes no sense. It's messed up."
Korema Brantley just completed ITT Tech's two-year nursing program was waiting to graduate when she received an email saying there would be no ceremony. She was told the company would contact her about how to receive her diploma.
Brantley said she already bought flights for her grandparents to fly in for her graduation.
"I'm out here because I'm frustrated. I drove to this school for over two years, two hours, 3-4 times a week," Brantley said. "A few girls I recommended to come here, they were behind me. I received phone calls this morning from every one of them balling in tears because they can't complete the program."
DOCUMENT: Letter sent to ITT Tech 'family'
The company, based in Carmel, Indiana, says its move will have an impact on hundreds of thousands of students and alumni as well as more than 8,000 employees.
ITT Educational Services said it was forced to take the action after the U.S. Department of Education issued sanctions Aug. 25, including a ban on enrolling new students who rely on federal financial aid. ITT was also told that it must increase its reserves from $94.4 million to $247.3 million, or 40 percent of federal student aid the company received in 2015.
"The actions of and sanctions from the U.S. Department of Education have forced us to cease operations of the ITT Technical Institutes, and we will not be offering our September quarter. We reached this decision only after having exhausted the exploration of alternatives, including transfer of the schools to a non-profit or public institution," ITT said in its statement.
Matthew Newman has earned two ITT Tech degrees.
"I'm sad because it's a very good school. it's done a lot of good for the older generation, a lot of the military. There's a lot of minorities to come here," Newman said. "it's a great second chance to have a professional career and life and we're losing that."
The Department of Education has information on their website for ITT students impacted:
Whether credits transfer will be up to the new school you choose. It’s likely to vary based on the type of program and school you’re considering.
If you have student loans, you may be eligible for a closed school loan discharge. If that happens, it will be announced by the Department of Education.
If you have a degree from ITT Tech, it will remain valid. You completed your degree at an operational and accredited institution; nobody can take away the credentials or skills you gained.
For more information from for ITT students, visit blog.ed.gov.
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson wrote to Education Secretary John King Jr. "on behalf of the tens of thousands of students who are suddenly searching for answers."
Nelson said that while he supports the increase oversight of for-profit universities, "It's important to do everything we can to protect the students enrolled at these schools when they unexpectedly shut down."
"I urge your department to work closely with the students enrolled at ITT Tech and keep them fully informed of the company's intentions to reimburse them and provide them access to their transcripts and records so that they can continue their education elsewhere," Nelson wrote.