ITT closing leaves local students in lurch

Zavier Hall had purchased his cap and gown, paid his fees and was set to graduate from ITT Technical College on Sept. 22.

But now, three weeks before the ceremony, his school is closed, leaving the Douglasville resident’s future unclear and him unsure whether his associate’s degree in network systems administration — if he receives it — will be recognized.

Hall, 26, is one of roughly 40,000 students left stranded after ITT Tech’s parent company announced on Tuesday it was closing all the school’s campuses, including locations in Kennesaw, Atlanta, Duluth and the campus Hall attended in Douglasville. The for-profit college provider also cancelled its upcoming September quarter of classes.

The closings followed sanctions from the U.S. Department of Education, which last month barred ITT from enrolling any students who received federal financial aid and required the company notify students about its accreditation problems.

Hall estimated his two-year program cost about $42,000, which he funded mostly through federal loans and grants. He started his college career at more traditional schools, including the University of West Georgia, and passed through other for-profit colleges, bringing a few credits but low GPA with him. Administrators at his campus helped him land two jobs, including his current computer-technology position at a sign company.

Hall’s employer promised a raise once he graduated, but “now I’m not sure,” he said.

Dave Pragel is one of the 8,000 ITT staff across the country who lost their jobs Tuesday. The part-time electronics and information technology instructor at the Kennesaw and Duluth campuses was notified in two emails that his job had been terminated and the school was closing.

“The experiences that I saw (while working at ITT) weren’t reflective of what the U.S. Department of Education saw,” — such as improper recruitment tactics, ballooning loan debt and inflated job-placement rates, which led to the federal sanctions — Pragel said.

Marine veteran Evan Pack was halfway through his two-year computer drafting and design program when he received word Monday about ITT’s closing.

Staff at the Kennesaw campus where he attended helped him find his job at a Marietta architecture firm. Pack, 27, hopes to transfer his credits to another school to finish his degree, but he’s concerned about having enough remaining military benefits to pay tuition somewhere else. “I have to think about my next move,” he said.

ITT students can apply to have their federal loans forgiven, or try to transfer their credits to another school. The federal education department is working with states to inform students about their options, and with other colleges to take in ITT students.

Locally, Atlanta Technical College is offering enrollment to ITT students, and has planned a series of information sessions later this month. Atlanta Tech is waiving its application fee for ITT students.

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