FLINT TOWNSHIP — Kenneth Hickey was two classes away from finishing his bachelor’s degree in cyber security at ITT Technical Institute in Flint Township when he found out the school had abruptly closed its doors Tuesday.
“I was aware of ITT Tech’s issues with the U. S. Department of Education … it was my belief that I would be able to finish this final term before ITT Tech either closed up shop or was able to work things out and continue on,” said Hickey, a Swartz Creek resident.
But as Tuesday drew on, reality set in. Not one to jump to anger, Hickey said he got busy researching his options. He called Mott Community College, but they said his credits would not transfer. Then they said some credits would transfer.
As of press time, Hickey, like many of the estimated 250 to 300 students who were planning to start classes Sept. 13, was still in a holding pattern.
ITT Educational Services, Inc., parent company of ITT Technical Institutes, announced the closure to students and staff via email early Tuesday morning.
ITT released the following statement in an email:
“It is with profound regret that we must report that ITT Educational Services, Inc., will discontinue academic operations at all of its ITT Technical Institutes permanently after approximately 50 years of continuous service.”
The institution further accused the Department of Education of a “total disregard for due process” to the school, and the impact on its students and 8,000 employees nationwide.
In recent years, the Department of Education had increased its oversight of the for-profit school’s finances.
In a press released posted Aug. 26 on the Department of Education’s blog, U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said the government had ordered ITT to cease enrollment of new students with federal aid and increase its cash reserves “to cover potential damages to taxpayers and students.”
Mitchell indicated ITT has been the subject of multiple state and federal investigations and was twice found to be out of compliance with accreditor’s standards.
“Over time, ITT’s decisions have put its students and millions of dollars in taxpayer funded federal student aid at risk,” the Mitchell stated in the blog post.
Brent Saltzgaber of Frankenmuth was an adjunct professor at ITT Tech in Flint Township for more than nine years. He, like Hickey, learned of the closure via email.
“I received two emails at 8 a.m. (Tuesday),” Saltzgaber said. “The first said my employment was terminated immediately and permanently, the second talked about what was going on with the school.”
Saltzgaber said most of his coworkers have other, full-time jobs, so their greatest concerns right now are for the students.
“They’re angry; they’re frustrated,” he said. “They’re not sure what to do now.”
Some former students say they’re not surprised by the news.
“The amount of money they were charging, and the private loans, were outrageous,” said 2010 graduate Amanda Woods of Flint Township.
Woods said she didn’t realize until her second year that some of her loans were private loans with high interest. And now, six years after graduation, she’s still trying to get a job in the criminal justice field.
“A lot of employers don’t think highly of those (ITT Tech) degrees,” she said. “The commercials on TV prompted me to stop (at the school). I had always wanted to go to college. I was looking for a change. They convinced me that I would be able to find all kinds of different jobs. Unfortunately, that was not their focus. They said they’d prepare me for a job in the courts, but there were very few classes based on that.”
Garrett Collins, a 2007 Swartz Creek graduate now living in North Carolina, said he doesn’t feel his ITT Tech education was worth the $44,000 in loans he racked up for a two-year degree in computer electronics engineering technology.
“It took me years to find a career, and it wasn’t even in that field,” said Collins. “If given the chance, I would not do it again.”
As for the students who were planning to return to classes next week, Saltzgaber offered these words of encouragement: “Keep pursuing your education. It’s important. Don’t let one setback destroy everything you’ve worked for.”