Why ITT Tech closing down is a good thing for all of us.
For almost 50 years, ITT Technical Institute has offered technical and vocational training in everything from nursing to engineering to criminal justice.
You probably first heard of ITT Technical Institute through one of their inspirational and increasingly self-aware commercials, like this one starring two brothers who said they were the first in their entire family to earn college degrees.
It's one of the largest for-profit schools in the country, meaning that unlike a regular college university, ITT is a privately owned, publicly traded company.
Well ... it was anyway.
Recently, ITT Tech announced that it would be closing its doors for good, ceasing all classes and operations across the country.
Not to mention officially crystalizing the utopia-like vision of Alice Cooper's "School's Out" into stark reality.
Hundreds and thousands of ITT's students and alumni will be affected by the closure, a fact the school was quick to point out. Not to mention the 8,000 staff members who lost their jobs.
It's hard not to feel for ITT's students, who have just had their education ripped out from under them. When you look at the questionable practices of for-profit colleges, though, it's clear that their students, and all of us, will probably be much better off without them in the long run.
ITT's closure is the result of a long-term crackdown on for-profit colleges led by President Barack Obama.
In August 2016, the U.S. Department of Education stopped letting ITT enroll students who rely of federal aid because the school failed to meet accreditation standards. ITT, which relies heavily on that federal aid to make its money, very quickly found itself unable to operate.
It's just another example of the closures and legal issues that for-profit institutions have begun to face. As Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) said, ITT's announcement should put the entire for-profit college industry "on notice" because "predatory practices, the exploitation of taxpayers and the deception of students have no place in our higher education system."
What's ol' "Gloomy-Blumey" talking about?
Here's a quick look into the dark abyss of for-profit colleges:
Some have been known to encourage their recruiters to intimidate low-income students by exploiting their pain and fear, essentially making students feel like they have to enroll if they want a better future.
Because of those predatory recruiting practices, ITT Tech schools have alarmingly low graduation rates and alarmingly high student loan default rates.
Worst of all, though? When the government restricted the ability of for-profit colleges to profit from federal loans, veteran's benefits — such as the GI Bill — remained exempt. Some schools (including ITT) found that loophole and started targeting veterans for recruitment, in one case even going as far as sending recruiters to a Wounded Warrior camp in North Carolina to talk to veterans with brain injuries.
Much like prisons, when you add the words "for profit" to the education system, things get real gross.
Again, it's hard not to feel for the students, who are completely innocent of the wrongdoings their schools are committing. Most of ITT's students came from low-income families and communities — two factors that have been proven to be a barrier to higher education. Not to mention America as a whole needs more vocational and technical schools, not fewer — something that Obama has supported for the entirety of his presidency.
All that said, the displaced ITT students are not without (better) options.
The U.S. Secretary of Education himself wrote an open letter to ITT students urging them to continue their education and stating that the Department of Education is committed to helping them do so.
Plus, ITT was never really helping low-income students in the first place. A Senate committee investigation found for-profit colleges can be up to four times more expensive than community colleges while providing significantly less opportunity for success.
Down the line, the closure of ITT could put a big chip in America's positively gargantuan student debt problem.
Students at for-profit schools often take out loans at higher rates than anywhere else and are more likely to default, leaving them with crippling debt, which means for-profit schools like ITT aren't just fueling the student debt problem, they're profiting off it.
There's a long way to go, but when for-profit schools go down, student debt might go down with it. America gets better when fewer of our students are being taken advantage of by a corrupt system disguising itself as opportunity.