The abrupt shuttering of ITT Technical Institute, along with a recent court ruling putting in doubt the future of another for-profit school, is causing serious anxiety for students dependent on financial aid for their schooling.
That is particularly true for veterans using the G.I. Bill.
In 2015, more than 12,000 veterans attended ITT Tech. More than 6,800 G.I. Bill recipients were scheduled to begin classes Monday.
But ITT, under investigation by several agencies for its recruiting and job placement claims, announced last week that it was permanently closing its 130 locations spread across 38 states. That includes two campuses in Minnesota with 68 veterans enrolled, as well as many more enrolled in online courses.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., sent a letter last week to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald asking for fair treatment for the affected veterans.
Klobuchar said civilian students who attended ITT using student loans or Pell Grants will be allowed to discharge their student loans and restart their higher education with a clean slate. But veterans don’t receive the same treatment when it comes to G.I. Bill benefits. Once their 36 months of benefits are exhausted, they are gone.
“The G.I. Bill provides veterans with a great opportunity to pursue the college of their choice, but it does not protect them against predatory recruitment practices and colleges that shutter their doors. We must right this wrong,” Klobuchar wrote in her letter.
The senator suggested that the VA work with affected veterans on academic counseling and options to transfer credits. She asked if the VA might not have the authority to grant exceptions to G.I. Bill regulations and allow reimbursement to veterans attending colleges that close. She also suggested the VA coordinate with the Departments of Education and Justice to explore possible legal action against ITT.
The ITT closure comes as another for-profit school, Woodbury-based Globe University and Minnesota School of Business, was found to have committed fraud last week — a decision that launched a move by the state to force it to close.
A Hennepin County judge found that the schools committed fraud in marketing and recruiting for their now-shuttered criminal justice program, which included a number of veterans using the G.I. Bill.
As a result of the court ruling, Higher Education Commissioner Larry Pogemiller ordered the schools’ authorization revoked. State law prohibits a private school from operating if it is found to have committed fraud.
Globe and MSB won’t be immediately closing their doors. In fact, the state says it will move with deliberation to reduce student disruption. Some students will be given a chance to finish their programs, or the state will work with them to transfer credits and find other places to continue their education.
But, as with the ITT situation, the uncertainty again affects veterans using their G.I. Bill benefits in a unique way. Because many G.I. Bill students use a housing allowance to pay their basic bills, the jeopardizing of their benefits affects more than being able to pay for books and classes.
“They rely on these funds to pay their basic living expenses and now they don’t have that,” said Betsy Talbot, manager of institutional registration and licensing for the Minnesota Office of Higher Learning.
“They are desperate because they need to be able to pay their mortgage or pay their rent, and they need that financial assistance they were anticipating.”