Exorbitant Tuition Costs and Predatory Lending
According to ITT’s own statistics, its students are paying astounding prices, between $45,000 and $53,000 in tuition for Associate’s degrees (see: http://programinfo.itt-tech.edu/posi/cost.pdf). By comparison, the National Center for Education Statistics estimates the average cost for an Associate’s Degree in the U.S. is $9,888,including room and board, tuition, and fees. I taught for half a decade at an Illinois community college, and tuition for an Associate’s Degree totaled $6,900 in 2016 dollars, or 13 to 15 percent of the cost of various ITT Associate’s Degree. Total tuition for Bachelor’s Degrees from ITT come in at a whopping $76,000 to $89,000, depending on the degree. By comparison, I taught for years at a major state university in Illinois, where four years of credits for a Bachelor’s degree now costs $44,430. Illinois state universities have seen significant spikes in tuition costs in the last few decades, but even these prices pale in comparison to ITT’s highway robbery.
When I attended undergraduate and graduate school at various public universities in the Midwest, the terms of student loans were made perfectly clear prior to receiving any federal financial assistance, because of the financial aid counseling process all students had to complete. I left the financial aid office with little uncertainty regarding what I was borrowing (whether I had the life experience to fully understand the dangers of taking on a mountain of debt is another story). But lending practices are lax at many for-profits. For example, the CFPB lawsuit alleges: “ITT used its financial aid staff to rush students through an automated application process without affording them a fair opportunity to understand the loan obligations involved. In some cases, students did not even know they had a private student loan until they started getting collection calls. The loans were high-cost. For borrowers with credit scores under 600, for example, the costs of the private student loans included 10 percent origination fees and interest rates as high as 16.25 percent.”
Poor Job Prospects and Low-Value Degrees
For-profits depict themselves as providing a fast-track for students to earn vocational degrees that put them on the path to career success and increased earnings. These promises are a conscious misrepresentation of for-profit degrees. These degrees are seen by other colleges and universities, and by employers as sub-par at best, indicating little value added in terms of enhancing students’ skill sets or increasing their odds of landing in a vocational career-path.
For-profits offer degrees as diverse as two-year Associate’s and certifications, to Bachelor’s, Master’s Degrees, and PhDs. But these degrees are the laughing stock of the academic community. For example, an online Bachelor’s or Master’s at ITT will do little to increase one’s chances of getting accepted into a nationally ranked graduate program in the social sciences, and this is well known in the discipline. A PhD from the University of Phoenix is not considered a credible candidate for a tenure track position as a sociology or political science professor. Simply stated, for-profit degrees are the snake oil of higher education. They evoke little but ridicule from serious academic institutions.
Echoing the above points, ITT’s problems with job placement are well documented. For example, the school places less than half of its criminal justice grads into jobs upon graduation. To make matters worse, without overarching federal benchmarks establishing how to measure job placement, for-profits are free to manipulate their figures for what constitutes a criminal justice occupation. And manipulate they do. ITT includes a number of positions in its criminal justice placements that have no business being designated so. These include: health care workers, AmeriCorps instructors, assistant store managers, auto claims representatives, and customer service representatives (see: http://programinfo.itt-tech.edu/ind/bscj/). Such is the nature of predatory “education” in a system that lacks basic federal regulations and standards.