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Debt Strike: ITT Tech Students Fight for Forgiveness of Loan Debts

Almost 2,000 North Carolina students of ITT Technical Institute are left without a school after the for-profit institution closed its doors last week. (Forsaken Fotos/Flickr)
Almost 2,000 North Carolina students of ITT Technical Institute are left without a school after the for-profit institution closed its doors last week. (Forsaken Fotos/Flickr)
September 14, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Dozens of former students and graduates of ITT Tech - which has campuses in Charlotte, Durham and High Point - today are declaring a "debt strike." The civil action means they will no longer be making federal loan payments for the debt they incurred as students at the for-profit institution that shut its doors last week.

The U.S. Department of Education announced it would deny federal financial-aid payments to ITT Tech last week after receiving complaints about the school.

ITT graduate Sandra Watson, one of the debt strikers, said she has $99,000 in debt and no faith in the for-profit system.

"And it's not just them," she said. "It's for-profit in general, because they charge so much money for their degrees and a lot of them are not recognized by employers. And they're not offering the quality of education that you can get at a public school."

In North Carolina, hundreds of veterans also are affected by the ITT closure, since the school specifically marketed to them to use the GI Bill for tuition.

Federal law requires that the Department of Education discharge the loans of students who have been defrauded by a school - but as yet there has been no announcement of such a plan for ITT students. In a statement, ITT Tech said the feds neglected to follow due process of law before taking action.

According to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office, 10 complaints were filed against ITT Tech in recent years.

Laura Hanna, co-director of the Debt Collective, a national organization working to phase out for-profit colleges and universities, said many of the students didn't understand what they were signing up for.

"Many ITT Tech students are first-generation college students," she said. "There's no culture or understanding in the family of what to look out for, or understanding accreditation. That's just not part of their reality."

Watson graduated with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 2010 and said that since then she hasn't been able to find a job with her degree. She said she knows she's one of many.

"I've had second interviews and callbacks, but it's not until they realize where I went to school when I either no longer hear from them, or they decide to just straight tell me that they don't accept that school's credits or degrees," she said. "They do not look at it as a legitimate college."

According to the Debt Collective, at least 1.500 ITT Tech students have applied to the Department of Education asking for their loans to be discharged. To date, according to the group, the requests have gone unanswered. Some other for-profit institutions in the state are offering credit transfers and discounted tuition to former ITT students.

More information is online at ittstrike.com.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC