EDITORIAL: Community colleges try to capture the students who had chosen ITT Tech over them

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Now that shady, for-profit ITT Tech has announced its immediate nationwide closure, public community colleges are loosening their rules and trying to pick up these suddenly disenfranchised students. In the markets where ITT Tech had campuses, they were known to flood the TV airwaves with commercials — targeting the same demographics (older students, students with jobs, under-confident students, students with GEDs) that community colleges had been known to also covet. But ITT Tech charged about $300 more per credit, even though community college credits are transferable and ITT Tech credits are total garbage.

We have received several press releases in recent days from community colleges offering “information sessions” for ITT Tech students, promising transfer credit for the ITT coursework and “life experience.”

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That said, most community colleges have seen shrinking enrollments in the past year or two, and are eager to fill seats.

But, make no mistake about it, ITT Tech was a scam school that was not accredited by any regional agency — regional accreditation is the only one that matters in the US. ITT Tech got students by prolific, deceptive advertising and hard-sell admissions reps who would talk students into taking out student loans for the study. Meanwhile, community colleges — using public dollars — have to be much more judicious in their marketing and the promises they can make. From a marketing perspective, they were getting their clocks cleaned by the for-profits.

What it looks like will happen is that community colleges will accept much of the ITT Tech coursework as “transferable.” However, community colleges are two-year schools that give associate’s degrees and ITT Tech billed itself largely as a four-year college that offered a bachelor’s degree.

So, ITT Tech students really won’t be getting what they had originally hoped for.

Now, true, some state community colleges have “seamless” transfer agreements with a state four-year college. So, technically, if a student graduates from a two-year community college, he or she is guaranteed acceptance into a four-year college. But whether or not that student comes in as a junior or just a sophomore is largely arguable.

Besides, if a student didn’t learn writing and math properly at ITT Tech, maybe he or she can still manage to get a two-year degree, but a four-year degree at a regionally accredited college will not happen. Under-prepared, they will fail out.

It’s also unclear if, say, a student does transfer into a community college, will the loans they had taken out for ITT Tech be forgiven through a federal program designed for those defrauded by educational institutions?

Or, legally, if ITT Tech credits are technically transferable, then was there really fraud?

Perhaps these disenfranchised students would be best served if their credits were not deemed transferable. Then, perhaps, they can make the case to have their past loans forgiven.

Second, it’s questionable if what the students learned at ITT Tech really was “college-level.” There are many stories out there about lax grading standards at such schools; instructors would be fired for not passing everyone. So there’s also an academic integrity issue going on.

Let’s not rush to try to turn the ITT Tech bachelor’s credits into some hastily organized associate’s degree.

Better would be to forgive the students’ loans and let them start over from scratch.

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