ITT shutdown drives student to suicide hotline

ITT Technical Institute’s closing had student Zina Richards calling the VA suicide hotline when she learned it put her back to square one with her bachelor’s degree.

“That just ruined my whole world,” said Richards, who served nine years in the U.S. Navy and was attending the ITT school in St. Rose. “We don’t get our money back.”

Richards’ situation was complicated in that she had pooled school money through sources like the GI bill and vocational rehabilitation. Additionally, her internship in information technology was tied to attending school and that is in jeopardy unless she finds education elsewhere.

“This is heartbreaking and now we have to rely on student loans if we want to finish our education,” she said.

Officially closed last Friday, ITT Tech announced it was shutting down all campuses nationwide in the wake of major federal sanctions.

Richards has yet to receive any notice from ITT about it. She learned about the closing from a co-worker at her internship who sent her searching for the story on the Internet. It was devastating news considering she was one course away from graduating with a bachelor’s degree in information cyber security.

“We had no clue as to what was going on,” Richards said. “I’m devastated.”

While other schools have said they will help ITT students, none of those options will help Richards. The school has lost its accreditation, which she believes will leave her starting over again in the bachelor’s program.

The for-profit institute was banned from enrolling new students who depend on federal aid, which cut off much of its revenue. ITT was also required to increase its reserves from $94.4 million to $247.3 million, or 40 percent of federal student aid the company received in 2015.

There were 137 ITT campuses around the country. It offered associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees and 49 education programs in a variety of fields. A major selling point for the school was the flexibility it offered students in terms of scheduling, allowing them to maintain employment while pursuing their degree.

The closures left more than 1,000 students in Louisiana displaced between ITT’s St. Rose and Baton Rouge campuses. Some 400 students were enrolled at the St. Rose campus

Though unfortunate for the students, staff members and others affiliated with ITT Technical Institute nationwide, the closing of its St. Rose campus should not negatively affect St. Charles Parish economically.

Corey Faucheux, St. Charles Parish Director of Economic Development and Tourism, said, “I don’t believe the closing will have a big financial impact locally,” Faucheux said.

“Now, it is a big educational institution, and in itself that’s a loss. Certainly from a workforce development aspect of it, it offered training and aided entry into employment. Their hours were flexible, though, and that was a draw for a lot of people.”

For Richards, ITT has left her in constant worry over how she’s going to deal with the situation. And it’s tougher for her than some to work it out as a military vet dealing with PTSD and the despair of not knowing how she can resolve the hardships created by ITT’s sudden closure, which she calls the “sad part” of her dilemma.


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