Higher Education

Initiative looks to aid ITT exiles

Tech school shut down all 130 campuses earlier this month.

September 16, 2016
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Earlier this month, as millions of students across the nation loaded up bookbags for the first day of classes, more than 40,000 ITT Technical Institute students and 8,000 faculty members were left with nowhere to go.

The for-profit technical institute abruptly shuttered its 130 campuses across the country Sept. 6, amid a slew of federal sanctions from the U.S. Department of Education. ITT Tech housed five campuses in Michigan, including a location in Wyoming. With students suddenly de-enrolled and left scrambling to find a way to continue their education, a number of local schools and organizations have come together to help the displaced student body.

In the wake of ITT Tech’s closure, the “To College, Through College Initiative,” a collective comprising local business and higher education leaders, has organized several resources to provide information and guidance, as former students search for their next step.

“The intent is to give students easier access to resources that are available to them with regards to what their next steps should be,” To College, Through College chair Rhae-Ann Booker said. “We want these students to be made aware of resources here in our community for them and to let them know that we’re willing to walk alongside them.”

On Sept. 15, T2C Studio, an organization launched by TCTC, hosted an ITT Student College Fair at the Kroc Center to provide students with more information and allow for one-on-one connections to be made with some of the area’s local colleges. Counselors, admissions and financial aid personnel from seven West Michigan schools — Aquinas College, Calvin College, Davenport University, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University — were on hand to answer questions about transfer credits, financial aid and class availability.

Booker said some schools likely would be able to accommodate incoming students, despite having already begun their fall semesters, and any incoming students from ITT Tech unable to begin classes this semester could use the time to map out their future plans.

Western Michigan University is one such school offering to place ITT Tech transfers in its current fall semester and has put together a team of admissions and financial aid professionals to specifically aid ITT Tech students. The university offered to waive application and late registration fees for any ITT Tech students looking to transfer in for the fall 2016 semester. WMU has previous experience with helping displaced students, as it assisted more than 100 transfers to the university following the closure of Miller College in Battle Creek in June.

Additionally, TCTC has partnered with the Grand Rapids Urban League to open up the League’s hotline to connect students with more information about their options.

Still, a modicum of hurdles will exist for the students looking to carry on with higher education — not the least of which might stem from their own frustration with the system, Booker said.

“It’s going to take a bit of work on their part,” Booker said. “For many of these students, this comes as an unfortunate surprise — I could only imagine how frustrated I’d be if I had my educational plans in place and to learn my institution is no longer in operations.

“I hope it’s a demonstration that we feel a sense of responsibility, not just for the students we have the honor of serving at our respective institutions, but for our community in general,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do as a part of this community, and it’s the right thing to do period — to make sure all students of all backgrounds have an opportunity to fulfill their dreams and advance their educations.”

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