ITT Technical School students and staff came to school and work after the 2016 Labor Day weekend to find a note on the locked doors: ITT no longer exists. I worked for ITT; I am not surprised.
The Department of Education “banned the school from enrolling students who use federal financial aid ...” (source). ITT stopped enrolling new students; federal financial aid is the school’s life’s blood. I said, “Next will be a shut down. And students and staff will be alerted by an email.”
Now the for-profit school is closed forever. That means 40,000 students and 8,000 employees out of an education, out of a job. As usual, the people on the bottom of the food chain suffer the misdeeds of those at the top (I discuss this in my book “How to Recognize the Devil;” specifically, Enron).
I worked as an adjunct professor in the Criminal Justice program. The pay was not great, but like many instructors I taught for the joy of teaching and the ability to help students grow and learn. I was offered the position of Department Chair and accepted.
I rehabilitated the program, working at least 50 hours a week. I observed how the corporation put income over student care, but I also observed students gain self-esteem, obtain a degree, and find jobs. We helped students leave abusive homes and start anew. I knew the student’s debt would be high when they graduated; that is the nature of all colleges. I saw success. I worked with some amazing people. I learned valuable life lessons. I worked hard, but had fun, too.
I disagreed with some of the practices. These schools are a business. The focus is money. Students who could barely read or write were graduating. I felt like we were badgering students who dropped out to return to school, even though I knew criminal justice was not for some. Outstanding instructors were “let go” because their classroom attendance rates did not meet a quota. Potential students were sometimes led to believe they could obtain just any job with their one degree, including criminal profiling and investigator. The commercials were misleading. Sometimes it seemed like madness.
I was there at the beginning of the end, and this beginning was one of the reasons I ended my career with ITT. After ITT received one of several warnings from the Department of Education, Department Chairs were ordered to work 15-hour days, at least 6 days a week. Besides running a program of over 100 students, this meant teaching classes, overseeing a program of outside professionals, scheduling guest speakers, special events, and field trips, overseeing equipment, and putting out fires anywhere they popped up. Management was breathing fire down our necks: enrollment, retention, and attrition. I came in 10 minutes late one day and management snapped, “You’re late!” I would grab a nap in my car during lunch, then told this would not be tolerated. I spent hours making class schedules only to have them rewritten. I was told to “avoid” my student’s questions regarding the program changes, and then I was told, “Just lie to them.” I still believed in the program and my students, so this was too much. After I left the job, my physical and mental health improved. I missed teaching, a few coworkers, and my students; I did not miss the grueling, vicious circle.
ITT is now blaming the Education Department, releasing a statement, “(the sanctions) were inappropriate and unconstitutional.” Their declaration does not surprise me. The statement also read, “The damage done to our students and employees, as well as to our shareholders and the American taxpayers, is irrevocable.” At least they got one thing correct.