Dept of Ed had ‘significant concerns’ over ITT’s finances, ability to serve students

TOWN OF AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education responded to ITT Technical Institute’s unexpected closure by telling students and faculty the sanctions it imposed were due to “significant concerns” about the for-profit school’s administrative capacity, organizational integrity, financial viability and ability to serve students.

The doors at ITT Tech’s Getzville campus were locked Tuesday morning, effectively locking out the futures of hundreds of local students and dozens of instructors.

“I’m sad. I really enjoyed teaching and I enjoyed the students, I enjoyed my coworkers and I’ll miss that,” said Bill Vicent, an instructor at the Getzville campus for the past eight years.

The now former information technology instructor said neither staff nor students were given any advance notice of Tuesday’s closure.

“It’s a combination of frustration and disappointment,” Vicent said. “A little bit of sadness, because the school really did a lot with the students that we had. We did our best job as possible to bring them along and give them some skills and information.”

ITT issued a statement early Tuesday, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Department of Education, saying the government improperly imposed sanctions on the school.

“This action of our federal regulator to increase our surety requirement to 40 percent of our Title IV federal funding and place our schools under ‘Heightened Cash Monitoring Level 2,’ forced us to conclude that we can no longer continue to operate our ITT Techcampuses and provide our students with the quality education they expect and deserve,” according to its statement.

It continued: “We believe the government’s action was inappropriate and unconstitutional, however, with the ITT Technical Institutes ceasing operations, it will now likely rest on other parties to understand these reprehensible actions and to take action to attempt to prevent this from happening again.”

Education Secretary John B. King, Jr., issued a statement of his own Tuesday on the agency’s website.

King wrote ITT has been riddled with problems over the years, including with its finances, its leadership and its ability to serve students. King wrote in recent years, they’ve also been the subject of several state and federal investigations.

“The school’s decisions have put its students and millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded federal student aid at risk. Last week, the Department of Education took oversight actions to prevent ITT from continuing to add to that risk,” he wrote. “When we made that decision, we did not take it lightly.

“One possible outcome of oversight actions is that a school may choose to close rather than take corrective actions, which can cause disruption and disappointment for current students.”

Vincent said he’ll miss the students at staff at ITT, while he’s hunting for another job. But he said the writing was on the wall, even as the economy shifted.

“It’s a combination of a declining market and declining economy because the outcomes for the students ideally are credentials and training and the skills, but there’s also the potential for being employed,” he said. “And when the employment situation dropped, it wasn’t as easy for the staff to find jobs for them.

“This was a very negative concept for a lot of students because they expect to be employed right away,” he added. “So it was possible for them to be recruited, but when they got out it was difficult for them to find jobs. The reputation started to decline and when the reputation declines, enrollment starts to decline and it was a downward spiral.”

In addition to the letter to students and staff at ITT, which includes a detailed history of the problems it’s had with ITT, the Department of Education says it will offer continuous updates on issues like student loans, credit transfers and advice for next steps.

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