With little notice, ITT Technical Institute closed suddenly this week – the result of a decision that they could no longer enroll students receiving federal student aid.
In a letter to ITT students, Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. cited the "significant concerns about ITT's administrative capacity, organizational integrity, financial viability and ability to serve students" in the last two years.
The move impacts more than 130 campuses nationwide, including five in Tennessee, and more than 8,000 employees across the country.
“So it’s always a shock to students, so we just try to stay calm and focused and help them in the best way we can,” said Stephanie Bellard Chase, with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
Officials at THEC told 10News they found out about the closure yesterday as well – and are scrambling to help students left in the lurch.
To do that, the agency is reaching out to similar institutions, asking them what credits or courses they’ll accept from ITT, and requesting residency waivers to make transfers easier.
“I’m a little worried where we’ll go, and who will take our credits,” said Amelia Mearman, who was nine months from finishing her bachelors degree in cyber security at ITT.
But even with the doors closed and locked, as far as the state is concerned, ITT can’t just walk away – THEC is looking into whether the sudden closure violated any of their notification rules.
“There is a possibility of fines or retroactively revoking their authority to operate, which may affect their ability if they ever wanted to come back as an institution in the future,” said Julie Woodruff, Assistant Executive Director for DPSA and Lead Attorney for THEC.
That could take up to a year to assess.
10News asked what’s in place to prevent sudden closures at institutions offering similar programs to ITT, like the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT), or South College.
THEC said TCAT is a public institution, so it could not close without state intervention.
South College is for-profit and private, like ITT. A representative sent this statement to WBIR saying there’s little danger of a closure.
“South College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to offer programs at the doctorate, masters, baccalaureate, and associate levels. Reaffirmation of accreditation was awarded in 2015,” the representative wrote. “The institution is authorized by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. South College is approved for the training of veterans and other eligible beneficiaries by the Tennessee Division of Veterans Education. South College also participates in multiple federal, state and private student financial aid programs, including the Tennessee Promise Scholarship, Tennessee Hope Scholarship, Federal Pell Grant Program and Federal Student Loan Programs.”
South College is also working to assist former ITT Tech students in transferring their credits and coursework.
In the meantime, Mearman’s story isn’t over. She said she plans to transfer to Fountainhead College of Technology and finish her degree.
“I got this far, I can’t stop now,” she said.
For more information from the U.S. Department of Education on options, visit www.studentaid.gov/ITT. The DoE is holding a series of webinars to help affected students.
(© 2016 WBIR)