Feds host webinars, Florida Memorial U. offers help after ITT Tech collapse

DAVIE, FLA. (WSVN) - One day after employees and students of ITT Technical Institute received an e-mail saying their school had been shut down for good, nearly 40,000 students and over 8,000 employees were left wondering, “What’s next?”

The Department of Education stopped providing federal assistance to ITT Tech after they accused the for-profit school of taking billions of dollars in federal grants and loans while failing to provide adequate job training for their students. Unable to deal with the federal sanctions, the company stopped enrolling students last week. Then, Tuesday morning, the company closed all operations and terminated the majority of its more than 8,000 employees.

In order to provide these thousands of students and employees with answers, the Department of Health announced, Wednesday, that they would conduct a series of webinars.

The U.S. Department of Education set up three webinars, Wednesday, in order to answer as many questions as possible. The last one happened at 2 p.m.

“If you’ve been attending an ITT campus that is closing, you have two primary options,” said Jim Wyatt with the U.S. Department of Education in the webinar. “The first one is to transfer to another school.”

Florida Memorial University is now offering help. FMU advisors will help students who want to continue their course work by possibility transferring their credits from ITT Tech to FMU; however, they will be considering each student’s credits and transcripts on a case-by-case basis.

“We think that we can provide individualized care counseling that will help students make a very, very smooth transition into their careers and academic programs,” FMU President Michelle Howard-Vital said.

The Department of Education also advised that, if your school closed while you were enrolled and couldn’t complete your studies, your federal student loan may be forgiven. “As a student loan borrower or a parent who borrowed plus loans on a student’s behalf, you may be eligible for a one hundred percent discharge,” said Wyatt. This does not apply to private, personal loans, however.

The Department of Education advised that the only website students and families should refer to on this matter is their official website: https://studentaid.ed.gov/itt.

Students and families should be wary of any websites offering “loan forgiveness” for a cost, since this is most likely a scam.

While the Department of Health hopes the answers to their questions could be just one computer click away, students and employees, like those at ITT Tech’s campus in Davie, feel that they have been left in the dark.

Many faculty and staff said the school did not give them a required advance notice of 60 days prior to the school’s sudden closure and are now filing a lawsuit

On Tuesday, ITT Educational Services, Inc. closed more than 130 of their for-profit technical school campuses across the nation, including numerous schools in Florida.

“I’ve been here for 12 years,” said Etzer Massenet, a former employee at the college. “You know, I was a full-time instructor, and then got promoted to become a chair. Now, I’m let off. You know, so everyone is affected by it. Not just the students but also the employees.”

“It’s frustrating, you know?” said student Jayson Matias. “Staying up late at night. I’ve got a strong 4.0 GPA, and I worked hard for that.”

In a statement released Tuesday, ITT Educational Services, Inc. blamed the Department of Education for the downfall of their ITT Technical Institutes. According to the statement, the federal government demanded the company produce an additional $153 million in collateral to cover possible losses.

Some called this federal crackdown “a death sentence.”

Some students told 7News they were about to earn their diplomas this year and thought they would find a job after graduation, but now they have no idea what to do and are not sure if their diploma means anything since their school is no longer accredited.

Not to mention, many of these students have $50,000 to $60,000 in student loans, which they are supposed to be paying off.

“I’m very disappointed, to be honest.” said student Joey Henley. “I don’t know why it just closed down like that, especially that I’m so close to getting my degree.”

His mother Corlitha Henley is equally upset. “Joey is almost $22,000,” she said, “so if his diploma doesn’t mean anything, then they better take back what we owe.”

ITT Technical Institute had campuses across Florida in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Hialeah, Davie, Jacksonville, Lake Mary, Pensacola, Tallahassee, Tampa and West Palm Beach.

Two employees have filed lawsuits against ITT Tech, saying the did not give them enough notice.

Florida Memorial University has also set up a hotline for ITT Students at 305-626-3753.

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