Special Report: The Costs of Switching Career Schools

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – Students affected by the closure of ITT Tech continue to face hurdles as they look to get their career training back on track.

10 On Your Side investigated the process of transferring credits, obtaining transcripts and loan forgiveness.

The U.S. Department of Education announced in August that ITT was facing tough financial sanctions because it was under investigation for its administrative capacity, organizational integrity, financial viability and ability to serve students.

US Department of Education’s Action Against ITT Tech

Two weeks later, drafting student Gunnar Karason, attended a special meeting for all students, staff and faculty.

“They told us If you’re already in, you’ll go all the way through to graduation. You’ll get your degrees — don’t worry about it,” Karason says.

But Karason says that promise would soon be broken.

“Three days later, we’re done, we’re closing up.” Karason used about half of his GI bill on ITT courses. He’s working, going to school and raising two kids with his wife. He’s hoping most of his credits will transfer to his new school, Tidewater Community College.

Matthew Simpson, a Granby High School graduate, didn’t have the GI bill. After nine months at ITT, he has about $12,000 in loans. He’s looking to have that debt forgiven, which means that he’ll lose the 15 credits he earned at ITT. Loan forgiveness is an option for students when a school shuts down. Students must weigh the amount of their loan and the amount of credits they would forfeit if they want to wipe out the debt.

Both Simpson and his father Earnest are among about a hundred former ITT students who are considering TCC.

“We really do feel that we’ll be able to enroll perhaps half of those students for the spring semester,” says Marian Anderfuren, spokeswoman for TCC. She says some credits will transfer, some won’t. “Every student’s transcript is being individually evaluated by our deans and our faculty to award credit.”

Regency Beauty Institute shut down last week, Corinthian closed two years ago. Like ITT, both were nationwide institutions with campuses here in Hampton Roads. The State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) says ITT won’t be the last career school to close.

“It is very possible that we will see that we will see other school closures,” says Sylvia Rosa-Casanova, Director of Private and Out-of-State Postsecondary Education.

When a school closes, SCHEV becomes the location for students to obtain transcripts. Rosa-Casanova says some former ITT students have had delays getting their transcripts because of the volume of requests, but those delays are being addressed and should be eliminated in the next few weeks.

ITT Tech declared bankruptcy when it closed. 10 On Your Side contacted ITT’s bankruptcy trustee. A staffer for the trustee, Deborah Caruso, says there would be no comment, and no other point of contact.

Everest College went non-profit last year, when its former parent Corinthian closed. Students at Everest tell us they chose the non-profit to spend less on what they see as the same education.

“The money had a significant role, because this is an eight-month program and it’s half the cost,” says Nicky Ralls, studying to be a dental assistant.

A credit hour at ITT was $493, at TCC it’s $176. In the Everest catalog, a credit can be as low as $218, but the school says grants and scholarships cover most student costs.

Money aside, people like Karason are determined to finish what they’ve started. “At this point, I’ve come this far, I’m going to get a degree,” he says.

10 On Your Side found that when you’re comparing for-profit, non-profit and community colleges, you can’t do too much research. Look at cost, but then look beyond the costs.

What about graduation rates, placement with employers, and transferability of credits?

The head of Everest likes the idea of not having to answer to investors. That gives him more flexibility at the local level.

“We get to make the decisions in how we drive this campus forward,” says Executive Director Jacob Kassuba.

10 On Your Side asked SCHEV what other schools might be in trouble. Rosa-Casanova says the next area concern involves an agency that accredits career schools – Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).

The U.S. Department of Education pulled its recognition of ACICS as a valid accreditor. It is appealing the decision, but if upheld, the 17 schools in Virginia that are currently ACICS accredited would need to find accreditation elsewhere.

Three have campuses in Hampton Roads and each sent us a statement on its action plan — Everest College, Sentara College of Health Sciences and Stratford University.

ITT Tech, now closed, was also accredited by ACICS.

Click here to find out if you qualify for loan forgiveness and how to get it.