The for-profit college chain ITT Educational Services is shutting down its campuses days after the U.S. Department of Education banned it from enrolling new students who use federal financial aid.
The company, which operates vocational schools, announced "with profound regret" in a statement Tuesday that it is ending academic operations at all of its more than 130 campuses across 38 states.
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 says 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.
There are four campuses in our area, with locations in Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Bucks County and Burlington County.
The Bucks County location, in Levittown, enrolled about 300 students. It was like a ghost town on Tuesday, with doors lock and students being turned away.
"I found out today on the internet and I was in shock, so I had to come down here to make sure it was really closed," said Jermain Washington of West Philadelphia.
"It was a good school, but I didn't learn, I didn't learn anything," said Anberlynn Porter of Morrisville.
The abrupt closure followed an announcement the school would not receive an estimated $580 million in federal student aid. The Department of Dducation has been investigating ITT since 2004.
The for-profit school has also been the subject of 19 state's attorney's civil actions, facing allegations they preyed on students with federal aid, requesting some take out additional private loans. They were also criticized for exaggerating 100% placement rates, and false advertising.
"They advertise that you are going to get a job as soon as you graduate, and you end up not getting a job," Porter said.
The Department of Education emailed current and recent students telling them they might be eligible to have their federal loan debt "wiped away" so they could start their education over somewhere new, or they could transfer their credits.
Students who attended ITT Tech within the last 120 days are eligible for that debt forgiveness, with taxpayers picking up the majority of the estimated $500 million dollar bill.
Jim Sell, the Executive Director of Bucks County Community College, said his school is opening the doors to ITT's displaced students.
"Students can actually start as early as September, a little later this month, and we also have October starting courses," he said.
ITT, which has been operating for 50 years in 138 communities, said in a statement, "We believe the government's action was inappropriate and unconstitutional."
The Department of Education says there was no other option, saying keeping the school open was a risk to students, and to taxpayers.
For more information about potential student loan forgiveness, visit this page at StudentAid.ed.gov
ITT Tech closes all campuses, impacting local students