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ITT Tech students await answers on their futures

With four months left to graduation, Deanna Ziada of Frankfort planned to start a career as a registered nurse in December. Now, she is among the thousands of former ITT Technical Institute students in limbo since the school abruptly closed Sept. 6.

“Basically, I have to start all over, because no other school will take our transfers,” said Ziada, who has spent two years and more than $30,000 to attend ITT Tech.

Other schools cite various reasons for their refusals.

“We are not accepting (ITT Tech nursing program) credits since the institution was not regionally accredited and their nursing program was not programmatically accredited,” said Kelly Rohder, spokeswoman for Joliet Junior College.

Moraine Valley Community College “is unable (to) accept nursing courses from ITT Tech due to lack of curricular enrollment,” according to a flyer provided by the college. Scott Friedman, dean of student engagement, said that nationwide, “We haven’t found any (colleges) that are excepting (ITT Tech) nursing credits right now.”

Students who received federal financial aid to attend ITT Tech face even more dire situations. According to the U.S. Department of Education, they may qualify to have their loans discharged, but only if they change programs. That means changing careers.

“You are not eligible for discharge of your loans if … you are completing a comparable education program at another school,” according to http://www.studentaid.gov/itt, a site provided by Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, specifically for ITT Tech students.

Ziada believes she was misled.

“I don’t have it as bad as many people do, because I don’t have any kids, but it still sucks that I wasted two years of my life and they just take it away,” she said. “(ITT Tech) told us they were going to be closing down and they said they were going to teach us out into 2018 and they lied.”

Moraine Valley, as well as other colleges, including Indiana Wesleyan University and Ivy Tech, are conducting seminars for ITT Tech students. Friedman said the Department of Education asked colleges to do this to help clarify options. Since much of ITT Tech’s course work did not meet the standards of accredited colleges, he said, transfering credits will likely need to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

ITT Tech had 130 campuses across the country, including Orland Park and Merrillville, Ind., with 35,000 students, including 7,000 veterans using G.I. Bill education benefits.

“Some of the answers are still changing,” Friedman said. “The federal government hasn’t had this problem on this scale … they are still trying to figure out how to respond.”

Nick Cavazos, of Oak Lawn, was beginning ITT this fall, after graduating from Oak Lawn Community High School. He said he was advised to apply for federal financial aid, which he did, and now has more than $10,000 in student loans, but cannot use those funds at another college.

“I talked to the other colleges and they told me I couldn’t do it,” he said.

Both Ziada and Cavazos have contacted Federal Student Aid, and are waiting for a response, they said.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is supporting the Veterans Education Relief and Reinstatement Act to temporarily extend G.I. Bill housing benefits.

“This bill could help ITT Tech veterans who lost this critical benefit and now may be in danger of losing their homes due to the closure of ITT Tech,” according to a statement from Durbin’s office.

Illinois Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan is one of 18 attorneys general who are investigating ITT Tech for “a variety of misleading and deceptive practices,” Durbin’s statement said. The for-profit college is being sued by attorneys general in New Mexico and Massachusetts, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Securities and Exchange Commission, it said.

Erin Gallagher is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

Source: ITT TECH

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