Over the past two weeks, since the closure of ITT Educational Services, Inc. (ITT), we’ve received thousands of emails and calls from its former students trying to find their way forward. Some are looking for a pathway to degree completion by transferring to another institution. Others are applying for federal student loan discharge to wipe away their loans. Yet there are others who are so deeply frustrated, discouraged and angry at ITT’s closure that they’re considering abandoning their education. A college education is still the best investment a person can make in oneself and the surest path to the middle class. While ITT’s closure may be a disruption, we cannot allow it to be the end of the road for these students.
We’ve been working around the clock to support ITT students, and partners around the nation have stepped up to do the same.
Reaching Out Directly to Students
The day the closure was announced, Secretary King outlined students’ two core options: pursue a closed school federal loan discharge or transfer to a comparable program. Within the first week after the closure, we had:
- emailed all 35,000 of ITT’s enrolled students restating their options.
- launched an online hub with helpful information about the ITT transition, including FAQs and information about closed school loan discharge. The FAQ is continuously updated so that it has the most up to date information.
- hosted 11 ITT-specific webinars, which is an easy, accessible way for students to learn more about their transition options, and published an up-to-date schedule of future webinars. Colleagues from Veterans Affairs joined us in the webinars to provide information to GI Bill beneficiaries affected by ITT’s closure. We have five more webinars scheduled.
- used social media to remind impacted students of these resources and remind them that they never have to pay for services the Department offers for free.
The following week we continued direct outreach and emails. Through these efforts, the Department has had almost 20,000 interactions with impacted individuals through our webinars, call centers, and dedicated email account. While it’s up to each student to decide the path best for them, we are doing everything we can to ensure they are well-informed about their options and opportunities.
Counseling Students on Transfer
A number of our partners outside the government that focus on college readiness and counseling are interested in helping students make informed choices about how to move forward with their education. We’ve asked for their help with students as they explore comparable programs of study. To assist students with continuing their education at other institutions, a number of groups have committed to sharing resources with them, including:
- Beyond 12,
- National Association of College Admissions Counseling,
- National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators,
- National College Access Network,
- UAspire, and
- Veterans Education Success.
We are grateful to these organizations for stepping up to support ITT students, and we hope to see others around the country do the same. Organizations interested in pitching in can visit ifap.ed.gov/SupportITTStudents, our resource page for partners, and they can email [email protected] with any questions or to share examples of what they are doing.
Improving the School Transfer Process
The day ITT closed, I wrote to hundreds of college presidents in areas where ITT students are most concentrated to encourage them reach out to students directly, and to be open to accepting transfer credits. Many were interested in supporting students’ work towards degree completion. Our direct outreach to institutions coupled with that to related independent groups, such as the American Association of Community Colleges and federally recognized accreditors, has resulted in a number of positive efforts to inform students’ transition:
- Many accreditors have proactively informed their accredited institutions of their flexibility in assessing credits for transfer, administering prior learning assessment, and waiving maximum transfer-in credit requirements to ensure colleges know about the ways they can support ITT students who want to continue their education.
- Community colleges in Houston, Texas are accepting ITT students on a “staging process” until their official transcript is available to allow students to begin classes right away instead of waiting for administrative processes to catch up with them.
- A number of colleges, such as those in Dearborn, Michigan, have proactively created webpages and reached out to students, providing enrollment opportunities and information on credit transfers.
- Many colleges, such as the Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon, are hosting transfer fairs, in collaboration with Federal Student Aid, where students can get answers to their questions.
- Many institutions around the country are opening their doors to former ITT students and are making good-faith efforts to help them identify programs that match their interests and will allow them to continue their educational pursuits.
Employing a Multi-Agency Approach to Sharing Information
We are fortunate to have strong partners in other parts of the Obama Administration. The Veterans Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have all conducted outreach to students to help them navigate their next steps. And the Department of Labor will provide information to its network of nearly 2,500 American Job Centers (AJCs) about options available to former students from recent school closings. Additionally, employees displaced by school closings can access reemployment assistance services at their local AJC.
There is much more work to be done to help the students impacted by this closure. If your organization would like to support these students, please email us and visit our resource page for stakeholders. Also, please share your student success stories as you conduct outreach. Together, we can help ITT students move forward to pursue their dreams.
Ted Mitchell is U.S. Under Secretary of Education.