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ITT Closure Leaves Students, Teachers In The Cold

Esther Honig
The ITT Technical Institute in Columbus is one of 137 locations to close after Tuesday's announcments.

With Tuesday's sudden announcement that ITT Technical Institute would close all 137 of its campuses, including two in Central Ohio, thousands of teachers and students were left with a questionable future.

The closure comes after the U.S. Board of Education said ITT could no longer accept student who use federal financial aid. That ruling came after years of state and federal officials investigating student lending practices and the quality of ITT programs.

ITT says it has already terminated the majority of its 8,000 employees, and tens of thousands of students are left filling in the blanks.

At the ITT campus in Columbus, student Lisa Chilton came to pick up her books for the first day of class, which was scheduled to be next week.

A drafting and design major, Chilton was just one semester away from completing her associate's degree. She says sacrificed a lot to earn her degree at ITT.

Chilton studies full-time, holds a job in construction and helps to raise two kids. She's taken out $40,000 in student loans for the two-year degree and even planned on completing a bachelors at ITT.

But she says when news broke that ITT had not met federal accreditation standards, the school administration assured students everything was fine.

"It's kind of like adding insult to injury because you're going to give me a degree that in a minute may not be worth a dime - and I still have to pay for it," says Chilton. 

Credit Esther Honig / WOSU
Lisa Chitlon was a semester away from completing her Associates Degree at ITT Technical Institute.

All things aside, Chilton says her education at ITT was still worth every penny. She says her professors were excellent and she would still recommend the program to others. 

The U.S. Department of Education disagrees. 

In a review, the DOE determined that ITT did not do enough to ensure a positive outcome for their students.

Chilton, who has already landed a job offer in Kentucky, says students who failed to find work after graduation lacked commitment. 

"The problem is that some of these kids come to school and they don't have the mindset to get their education," Chilton said. 

Professional engineer John Losco enjoyed working with dedicated students like Chilton. Until Tuesday Lasko taught evening classes at ITT.

Just after the college announced its closing, he received a letter stating classes next quarter had been canceled and he'd been terminated.

Losko says for him teaching at ITT was about giving back and he believes the college provided a quality education. When it comes to finding gainful employment, Losco says the issue was preparing students, many from low-income backgrounds, how to enter the business world.

"You have to look at who's interviewing and how you can assimilate into the business culture, instead of expecting the business culture to embrace the culture you're walking in with," Losco said. 

For the hundreds of Ohio students stuck with incomplete degrees, The Ohio State Board of Career Colleges and Schools says they'll help them to transfer to accredited schools.

Students can choose to have their federal loans discharged or transfer credits to an accredited school.