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Wisconsin's Former ITT Tech Students Look for Options

The student-loan debt problem in Wisconsin just got bigger with the closing of ITT Technical Institute campuses. (zimmytws/iStockPhoto)
The student-loan debt problem in Wisconsin just got bigger with the closing of ITT Technical Institute campuses. (zimmytws/iStockPhoto)
September 19, 2016

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin ranks third in the nation for total student loan debt. And now another group of students has been left holding the bag - and the debt - after the for-profit college ITT Technical Institute abruptly shut down all of its campuses in the U.S.

The closure affected about 300 ITT Tech students at campuses in the Milwaukee suburb of Greenfield, and at the Madison campus. Federal and state regulators have been closely monitoring ITT Tech for the past two years, compiling evidence that the school was pressuring students into shaky financial-aid arrangements.

Laura Hanna, co-founder of The Debt Collective, a group that helps students dispute loan debt in situations like this, said many of the students that her organization has spoken to claim they were also misled about job prospects.

"The former students have attempted to get work and had been told that they could be placed in a field that they weren't placed in,” Hanna said. "Many of them are working at just barely above minimum wage or working at jobs where you're not required to have a degree. Or [they’re] not working."

The advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, which has been spearheading the effort for student loan debt reform, called ITT Tech an unscrupulous, predatory scam that's left hundreds of Wisconsin students in a bad situation.

In a statement, ITT Tech said regulators neglected to follow due process before forcing them out of business.

A number of other, established tech schools in Wisconsin have taken steps to help former ITT Tech students with late enrollment and other options. Hanna said the former ITT Tech students were targeted by aggressive advertising.

"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 with colleges. And going through the rigmarole of signing up for loans or understanding accreditation, that's just not part of their realities."

ITT Tech, which had operated 130 campuses in the U.S., said it was a victim of what it called "regulatory assault" by federal regulators, and never had a chance to defend itself.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI