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National Debt Strike By Former ITT Students Grows

Almost 200 ITT Tech students are joining a "debt strike," after the for-profit institution closed its doors last week. (Forsaken Fotos/Flickr)
Almost 200 ITT Tech students are joining a "debt strike," after the for-profit institution closed its doors last week. (Forsaken Fotos/Flickr)
September 15, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.V. — More than 175 former students and graduates of ITT Technical Institute, which had a campus in Huntington, are joining a national "debt strike.” Protesters say they will no longer be making federal loan payments for the debt they incurred while students at the for-profit institution.

The U.S. Department of Education announced it would deny federal financial-aid payments to the institution last week after receiving complaints about the school. Sandra Watson, an ITT graduate and one of the debt strikers, said she has $99,000 in debt.

"It's not just about me. There are so many people who fell victim to ITT. So many of us have a huge debt over our heads,” Watson said. "And it's not just them. It's for-profit in general because they charge so much money for their degrees."

Federal law requires that the Department of Education discharge the loans of any students who were defrauded by their 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.

Laura Hanna, co-director at the Debt Collective - a group that organized a similar strike of the now-closed for-profit Corinthian Colleges - said radical reform of for-profit colleges and universities is needed to protect students.

"Many ITT Tech students are first-generation college students,” Hanna said. "People were targeted by very aggressive advertising and they found themselves preyed upon and harmed by sub-prime education schemes."

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

"It's not until they realize where I went to school when I either no longer hear from them, or they straight tell me that they don't accept that school's credits or degrees,” Watson 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.

For more information, visit ITTstrike.com.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV