Meanwhile, the company that operates ITT Technical Institutes said Tuesday it was permanently closing all its campuses nationwide, blaming the recent move by the U.S. Education Department to ban the for-profit college operator from enrolling new students who use federal financial aid.
The shutdown will affect about 35,000 ITT students — including about 2,000 enrolled at nine locations in Ohio — who were preparing for the start of classes this month.
Barmak Nassirian, the director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, described the school closings as a “tragedy” for students and employees, but not unexpected.
“The chickens have indeed come home to roost, and some of the misdeeds the for-profit sector are beginning to catch up with the companies that have been victimizing people,” Nassirian said, referring to questionable practices by some for-profit schools that have made national headlines.
ITT, for example, has been the subject of state and federal investigations focusing on its recruiting and accounting practices. Although it’s important to note that Carousel has an unblemished public record.
Nassirian said displaced students basically have two choices: They can either transfer to another school or apply to have their federal student loans discharged.
But the discharge comes with one big caveat, he said: “Under the law, students whose schools close precipitously are entitled to have the entirely of their federal loan balance written off, unless they transfer credits to a similar program somewhere else. Then they’ll lose eligibility for that discharge.”
In most cases, students can’t transfer all of their credits from one school to another, Nassirian said, leaving many students facing difficult choices.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Candace Bowshier, a 34-year-old Springfield resident who said recently paid more than $5,000 in student loans and grant money toward her tuition at Carousel, which runs just under $18,000 for the two-year program.
“They just took my money without any notification that they were planning to close,” said Bowshier, who said she found out from a classmate on Labor Day that the school was preparing to close. “It was not a good day for me. I was getting full custody of my children, and I was going to pick up my kids, and then I find out about this.
“The way they did it was just wrong,” she said. “A friend of mine messaged me and said the instructors were told not to say anything, and that the students would be informed when the time was right. We’ll, the timing couldn’t be worse.”
Lisa Quesinberry, another Carousel student from Springfield who was close to graduation, said she felt betrayed by the school, which she estimates had already collected about $10,000 of her own money and federal student aid before shutting down.
“They acted like everything was normal when we went into the holidays,” she said, referring to the Labor Day weekend. “Then I find out they’re closing. I got notified by word of mouth; from other students. No word from instructors or anybody else with the school. I guess I’ll start somewhere else again. But I’m 53 years old. I don’t want to start over.”
Christopher Logsdon, executive director of the Ohio Board of Cosmetology, said the board received an email notification from Carousel owner Don Yearwood early Tuesday morning that he was closing the schools immediately. Logsdon said the board was working with about 93 displaced Carousel students to go over their options but was still gathering information.
In the meantime, Logsdon pointed to the board’s administrative code, under which: “a school that discontinues operation is required to forward a complete, certified training record for each student within fourteen days of the completion of any training hours by the student.”
“Our office has communicated this requirement to Mr. Yearwood, and it is our understanding the program will be forwarding these records for each student,” Logsdon said in an email.
In addition, “If a school closes permanently and ceases to offer instruction after students have enrolled, it must make arrangements for students or implement any applicable teach-out agreement in compliance with the provisions of paragraphs (C)(1) through (C) (6) of rule 4713-5-14 of the Administrative Code,” the email read.
John Ware, executive director of the State Board of Career Colleges and Schools, said the state board has been working on a plan to help ITT students affected by the closing.
“We anticipated this was a possibility after the feds made their announcement two weeks ago. We have been working with ITT and the Department of Education so we can let students know their options,” Ware said.
Sinclair College spokesman Adam Murka said his school has started receiving inquiries from ITT students. Sinclair began classes two weeks ago, but Murka said students could enroll in a shorter “B term” that is offered this quarter.
In addition, Clark State Community College said it will provide individual admissions and academic advising to ITT Technical Institute students and graduates in response to its announcement that it will close all of its locations.
An email will be sent on today by the State Board of Career Colleges and Schools to all enrolled ITT students explaining their options, according to Ware. Ware said ITT has set up a web portal to explain options, but students have complained to Ware’s office that it is not working.