An ITT Teacher on the Human Side of Today’s Shutdown

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(*Updated Thursday, September 15, with information for former ITT students from Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange — see bottom of post.)

ITT Technical Institutes are part of a 50-year-old national chain of for-profit trade schools with three campuses in Alabama, including one in Bessemer. Or at least they were. The Indiana-based company closed all of their almost 140 campuses across 38 states today. ITT had been under scrutiny since 2014 from the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies for alleged financial mismanagement, recordkeeping and admissions infractions, and more. We wanted to explore the human side of the shut-down, so we spoke with Jason Noah, who’d been teaching business writing and other subjects at night and on weekends at the Bessemer campus since 2009. Noah says typical ITT students didn’t have it easy to begin with.

Interview excerpts and links to more information are below.

Strikes against many ITT students

“No one’s at home, telling them how to get scholarships. No one’s at home, telling them how to ‘do school,’ because they don’t know anyone who’s gone past high school. That’s not every student, of course, but it’s a large majority. And so today, as I’ve sort of been grappling with this for the last six or seven hours, all I can think about is … I wish I could teach tonight so that they could ask me, ‘What do I do next?'”

“For a lot of the students at ITT, the public school system didn’t work for them, so they come in with sort of a bias against education … It made me a better teacher because these weren’t blank slates — these were slates full of really negative messages.”

Why a teacher taught

“Seeing the dedication of these students coming in after they’d been at work all day, often times at grueling jobs all day, up for 12 hours. And then they drive to Bessemer to sit in my class for the next four hours so they can learn how to write a paper … I’ve got students in my class who are missing kissing their kids goodnight. They don’t even always know where their kids are going to stay. They’re trying to juggle childcare. They’re trying to figure out, ‘Okay, do I have gas money to make it to school tonight?’ These are the kinds of questions they’re having to deal with, on top of everything else.”

Thoughts on the shutdown

“I think the [U.S.] Department of Education just wanted to make sure students were getting that training and they weren’t just being pushed through for the sake of a profit.”

If you could, in one sentence, give your former students some advice right now…

“Call me. And let’s talk.”

For information about options available to ITT students, including loan information, click here. For a statement from the Indiana-based company, click here. For a national overview from NPR’s Ed Team, click here.

Statement and information from Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange’s office:

(MONTGOMERY) – Attorney General Luther Strange is offering information about resources available to assist students of ITT Technical Institute, which suddenly announced its closure on September 6 in the face of regulatory actions by the U.S. Department of Education. ITT has branches in Madison, Bessemer and Mobile, reportedly serving approximately 1,600 students in Alabama.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, students have two general options: to apply for closed school loan forgiveness, or to seek to transfer credits to another educational institution. 

Students may apply for discharge of their federal loans if the school closed while they were enrolled, or if they had been enrolled within 120 days prior to closing.  They are urged not to pay for loan consolidation or forgiveness that the Department of Education provides for free. If one subsequently completes a comparable program at another school through benefit from one’s training at ITT, the loan may be repayable. Details of eligibility and the process for application are available online from the U.S. Department of Education at http://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/about/announcements/itt.

In some instances, students may be able to transfer credits to a new institution, but that depends upon whether the new school decides to accept ITT coursework. The U.S. Department of Education is working with postsecondary programs to process records so that future eligibility for financial aid may be determined, and to facilitate information for students about other available programs for their consideration. In Alabama, students should contact the Alabama Commission on Higher Education at 334-242-1998, toll-free at 1-800-960-7773, or through its website at www.ache.state.al.us.

A series of webinars with detailed information is being offered by the U.S. Department of Education throughout September. Registration is available at the department website http://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/about/announcements/itt.