ITT Closing: Picking Up The Pieces

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Higher ed leaders and institutions throughout the state are discussing what's next following Tuesday morning's announcement that Carmel-based ITT Educational Services Inc. has ended operations. Some 40,000 current students and more than 8,000 employees nationwide are affected by the for-profit education provider's decision. Ivy Tech Community College, the state's largest public post-secondary institution, says it is working internally to develop options for former ITT Tech students. Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers says the state is evaluating long-term and short-term options for displaced students.

The U.S. Department of Education says it is giving ITT Tech students the option to have federal loans discharged through its closed school loan program. Students may also continue their studies at another school by transferring their credits, though the department says if students do transfer their credits, they may become ineligible from discharging their federal loans.

The department is hosting a webinars for ITT Tech students Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. You can find more information on the webinars by clicking here.

WGU Indiana has worked with ITT Tech students in the past and Chancellor Allison Barber says she has lost sleep thinking about the negative impact this could have on the learners and workers. "I'm really worried about people who were enrolled at ITT and now they're not certain if they should continue with their education, and the answer is 'absolutely, yes, you should,'" she says. "I think it's important that students remember that they had a dream of getting a degree and they need to pursue that degree even if they university they chose is no longer an option."

In a statement, Ivy Tech Community College said it is "collaborating internally to develop options for ITT Tech students. While ITT credits do not transfer-in to Ivy Tech, we are exploring alternative options for ITT Tech students should they seek an educational pathway at the Community College. Some of those options might include prior learning assessments and certification crosswalks, which could allow students to earn credit for past experiences and credentials."

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Barber added that the credit transfer situation can be challenging for students, but as WGU Indiana is competency-based, previous experience and education can help students advance toward a degree or certification. "Some students from ITT have transferred-in credits to WGU Indiana. Others have changed degrees and so their credits don't transfer, but the competencies they learn in college will help them succeed and accelerate at WGU Indiana and in that way, we're a good fit for many of these students."

Teresa Lubbers tells Inside INdiana Business the commission is working on several fronts to help in any way possible to take care of financial and academic concerns of students. "We’re in the process of gathering all the records from ITT, so if students need to have those records to go someplace else or to get their transcripts for a job, that we can do that. We’re working to try to explore as many transfer and placement options for these students as possible." She says ITT's student body has included a lot of veterans, so the state is also working with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Lubbers has also reached out to members of the Indiana Congressional Delegation.

"We’re on a dual track. We’re doing everything we can to make sure that the academic and financial concerns of students are taken care of now and then we’re also looking to see, under the authority we do have, what can we do to avoid these situations moving forward. Some of this has to do with how they’re accredited and even the accreditors are under a great deal of scrutiny right now. We’ve used accreditation as a measure of quality in many ways and perhaps that isn’t adequate," Lubbers said.

Bethel College says it has "a more generous credit transfer policy than many other institutions" and is offering support for displaced ITT students. Vice President for Adult and Graduate Studies Toni Steffensen Pauls says "we know that these students have invested time, money and energy into bettering their lives through education, and now, through no fault of their own, they’ve hit a big bump in the road. We want to help them find a way to continue down the path they started and be able to use what they gained at ITT Tech to move them towards a college degree."

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