Desiree Mabry was planning on graduating with an associate’s degree in electrical engineering from ITT Technical Institute next summer. But Tuesday those plans came to an abrupt halt.
Mabry, 22, of Fresno, is among more than 40,000 ITT Tech students across the country who were notified that the school is permanently closing its campuses nationwide, less than a week before the September quarter was scheduled to begin. The company said it will let go most of its 8,000 employees.
The announcement comes after a dispute with the U.S. Department of Education, which found ITT Tech was not meeting accreditation standards.
“I woke up this morning to that email and I was like, are you serious?” said Mabry, who attends the campus in Clovis. “I don’t know what to do. You can’t even get into the school to use the computers or get your files or talk to someone. I’m so lost.”
In an email to students, ITT Tech blamed the closure on new requirements and conditions issued by the Department of Education. The agency had stopped allowing ITT Tech to enroll new students who depended on federal aid after investigations found the school was out of compliance. ITT Tech’s decisions “put its students and millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded federal student aid at risk,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.
“Please know we worked diligently to identify alternatives that would have allowed you to start or continue your education at ITT Tech and earn your degree. But the Department of Education’s actions have forced us to cease operations at the ITT Technical Institutes,” the school said in its email to students. “We are truly sorry to have to make this decision.”
The closure has people like Mabry scrambling to find a Plan B and looking at nearby institutions where their credits can be transferred. Mabry had recently stopped working so that she could attend school full time, forfeiting some of her welfare benefits.
“I ended up losing my food stamps for this school,” she said. “I wanted to be somebody. I only had two more quarters to go and I was going to be done. And there’s nothing any of us can do about it now.”
The doors were locked at the Clovis campus. Associate Dean Dawn Lawrence was seen leaving the building but refused to comment. “If it’s about ITT, I have nothing to say,” Lawrence said.
Tuesday’s announcement also caused confusion for students attending the Institute of Technology in Clovis, which has no relation to ITT Tech. The Institute of Technology campus, at 564 W. Herndon Ave., is less than 3 miles from ITT Tech, which is on the corner of Herndon and Clovis avenues.
“The confusion is huge,” said Leann Quaschnick, director of admissions for Clovis’ Institute of Technology. “Although we have a similar name, we are in no way affiliated with ITT. We’re really saddened to hear the campus is closing, and we want to help students that are left behind. But we don’t really offer any similar programs. We are completely different.”
ITT Tech, which has 130 campuses across the country, including 14 in California, had an online focus and offered degrees in information technology, drafting and design, criminal justice and more. The Institute of Technology offers vocational education programs, such as massage therapy and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Joey Agloro, 27, of Madera, traveled about 45 minutes to the Clovis ITT Tech campus three times a week in pursuit of an associate degree in network systems administration. He was one quarter away from graduating.
“I’m at a standstill. … It was all for nothing,” Agloro said. “It felt good to be back in school after almost 10 years of being out of high school. Now it leaves me to think, should I even attempt it again?”
Federal Student Aid, an office of the Department of Education, issued guidance to ITT Tech students regarding how they can apply for loan discharges and retrieve student records. A national webinar for ITT Tech students will be held on Wednesday at 7 a.m., 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. For more information, visit the Federal Student Aid website.