Who is to blame in ITT Tech Institute scandal?


Harold Poling, left, and Ted Weisenberger found the doors to the ITT Technical Institute campus closed after ITT Educational Services announced that the school had ceased operating, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The Carmel Ind., based company, which operates vocational schools, announced in a statement, Tuesday, that “with profound regret” it is ending academic operations at all of its more than 130 campuses across 38 states. Weisenberger was one quarter short of getting his degree in project management, and Poling was going to began taking classes in cybersecurity next week. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

In the wake of ITT Technical Institute’s closing, many former students and employees are wondering who to blame. Some students are looking at the bigger picture, while others are dealing with the current and crushing debt and monetary issues now surfacing as a result of the government ceasing all federal loans to ITT students.

In terms of problems, some articles surfacing the web have one man in mind: John King Jr., the U.S. Secretary of Education. King is telling many students that they “may” be eligible for debt discharges and, in a post on the Department of Education’s website, told students the department is “committed” to helping those affected moving forward.

Many went to the institute for years, while also asking for loans. Now students with a “half education,” no job, and a lot of money to pay off want answers.

ITT’s quality as an academic institution has been scrutinized before; the school’s lack of concern regarding the admission of a man, Carlos Webb, who had a long history of violent crimes, was one such mark against ITT. After being released from prison, Webb decided he wanted an education. ITT Technical representatives assigned the man to an enrollment representative by the name of Kristen Trease. While many schools would have raised concerns regarding his criminal background, with charges including kidnapping and aggravated burglary, according to CBS, he was granted admission.

However, he is not the one to look at in this case. Neither is Kristen Trease. According to reports, Trease raised serious concerns after Webb began behaving in an aggressive manner toward her.

Despite these concerns, the “school” did nothing. When Webb returned to prison after a semester, he enrolled back in to the school. And, funny enough, ITT Tech granted him readmission, ignoring Trease’s objections. The concerning behavior escalated to violence when Webb shot Trease in the chest on April 24, 2012. But, that’s not all. The following day, ITT Tech fired her because she couldn’t work anymore. So, while she was paying for her hospital stay, she was also filing claims against the institute, which all were denied.

College is expensive. Without in America, your chances of getting far are slim. So, why would John King Jr. not provide viable information to people who wish to transfer from ITT Tech about the transfer credit policy? Though ITT Tech is, yes, equally responsible, King is the big fish in all of this.

U.S. Congress also deserves some of the blame, passing federal funding for the institute and students. In fact, according to Melissa Korn of the Wall Street Journal, ITT received “80% of its cash revenue from Title IV federal aid, including Pell Grants and student loans, in 2015.” Much of that money comes from ordinary Americans who are also trying to pay off loans, including those of their own children.

So, enough with pointing fingers. Who’s doing anything to help? Well, Laura Hanna is someone to look at. She is co-director of the Debt Collective, a grass roots organization designed to help students get the money they deserve. The Debt Collective helped many students at Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit company accused by the Obama administration of “inflating the value of its degrees,” according to coverage from the Press Enterprise. But only about two percent of the students at Corinthian got their full money back. Hanna said, “There are very few people we are working with who have received relief…We’re not satisfied.”

Many think 2008 was the worst year for Americans in recent time, but now, something new is happening which many economists worry about: substantial education. America has always been keen on getting the most educated people to work in the country. If students are investing in a fake, worthless education, they are investing in a life of worry and pain. For-profit colleges must be dealt with, but not at the complete expense of those who have invested time and money into what they believed to be an education.

Miller Schweizer is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at miller.schweizer@uconn.edu.

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