Veterans hit hard by ITT Tech closure

Thousands of students are trying to figure out what to do after ITT Technical Institute campuses permanently shut down nationwide.

WEBSTER, TEXAS - ITT Technical Institute aggressively recruited military veterans, and now the school's closure hits them especially hard.

Mike Sevier spent 10 years in the Army and says he joined the service to pay for college.

"My family didn't have a lot of money," he said. "Nobody in my family had gone to college, and I wanted to be the first."

The GI Bill pays a veteran's tuition, housing and other expenses during school. Sevier followed many of his military friends and enrolled at ITT Tech. He liked the campus because it was close to his home. 

Sevier was just one semester short of getting his associate degree in business management when ITT announced it was shutting down its 130 campuses nationwide. He was notified by email.

"It basically just said all schools were closed, and if you want to continue your education, you have to go elsewhere," Sevier said.

But for vets like Sevier, going elsewhere may not be easy because many schools don't accept ITT Tech's credits. The institute sent a list of possible choices in the email, but Sevier has already been turned down by one.

"University of Phoenix, I called them and they said that they weren't accepting new students in the Houston area," he said.

The Department of Education is allowing most traditional students who are enrolled or were recently enrolled at ITT to get their federal student loans wiped clean. This allows them to start over in the event credits won't transfer. However, military veterans using the GI bill do not have this same ability.

"We are only given 36 months," Sevier explained. "The time that has been put toward this school has already been used, and we can't get that back. "

Veterans also stand to lose their housing allowance, something Sevier says he and his family counted on.

"There's a lot of vets out there that are hurting because of this situation."

Derek Fronabarger, director of policy for Washington, D.C.-based Student Veterans of America, estimates that there are more than 6,500 veterans who were enrolled at ITT.

"You could literally be four credits shy (of graduation), the school closes, and no one will accept your credits because no one wants ITT credits," Fronabarger said to the Military Times newspaper. "There's not a school for you to go to and no way for you to recoup your benefits."

Fronabarger's organization is lobbying Congress to develop a safety net for veterans who attend schools that shut down.

Despite this setback, Sevier says he wont give up on his dream of college graduation. 

"One thing the Army did teach me is never quit, never give up," Sevier said. "I'm going to look for another school and pursue my degree there."

(© 2016 KHOU)


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