I’m sorry, ITT Technical Institutes students

The for-profit vocational education institution has been completely shut down, casting 45,000 students abruptly adrift. It wasn’t quite instantaneous: everyone should have been able to see it coming. First they were told that federal financial aid could no longer apply to ITT; then California told them they could no longer accept any new students.

Since then, ITT Technical Institute posted a new landing page on its website that states, “We are not enrolling new students.” The website also details that credits earned by current students are “unlikely to transfer.”

You might wonder why this happened. Simple answer: total accreditation meltdown.

In blocking new students from enrolling, the Education Department cited the actions of ITT’s accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, which determined that ITT “is not in compliance and is unlikely to become in compliance with [ACICS] accreditation criteria.” According to the department, ACICS questioned ITT’s compliance with standards such as financial stability, management, record keeping, admissions, recruitment standards, retention, job placement and institutional integrity, in an Aug. 17 letter sent to the department.

I feel a lot of sympathy for the students who were bilked out of their money at this place, and I would hope that any debt they accumulated their would be wiped clean (although, this is America, so it probably won’t). But I’d also say to any student enrolled in a for-profit college…get out while you can. You are being robbed, and the writing is on the wall.


  1. says

    There may be a few exceptions. As far as I know Post University in CT is reasonably legit, for example. Also some vocational programs — you can get a trade license from for-profit programs. But yeah, these scams are really disgusting.

  2. felicis says

    Advise anyone you know from ever using these for profit training schools. Your local community college almost certainly has the same programs – at lower cost and higher quality (the big difference is that community colleges are not as aggressively marketed).

    For instructors – never teach at these places – they pay about half what you would get as an adjunct per credit hour. My (teaching) experience was Heald college – in my second (and last) term, I started advising all my students to jump ship. Fortunately, I went right into a graduate program after that, making more money… That should be a big warning sign – I was making more money as a graduate teaching assistant.

  3. Mark Dowd says

    Just the kind of shit i needed to start this week after the shit that happened to me last week.

    I’m already graduated with a couple years job experience though, so hopefully it wont drag me down.


  4. keithb says

    AFAICT, ITT-Tech used to be one of the good ones. I have seen many successful hires from the graduates.

  5. The Other Lance says

    The fact that their programs and management went to shit doesn’t mean they never graduated good students who became good workers in their fields of study.

  6. robro says

    Well, there goes “An Education for the Future,” as there Google search blurb puts it. And so much for the “Endless Possibilities” and “the power of education” as stated on their home page. I wonder which 14,000 companies hired their graduates, and what they have them doing.

    All this raises a personal question: My son is studying computer programming at the local community college, and has expressed an interest in a coding boot camp. They promise a lot…namely jobs…in a short time. They also cost a lot, and like ITT could end in a heart beat. So, I’m concerned that they aren’t reliable or legitimate. I can find websites that aggregate advertisements (basically) for these enterprises, but I don’t find a reliable, critical evaluation of them.

  7. carlie says

    robro – In general, my advice would be to be wary of specialty “camps” and “certificates” and the like. They are generally pretty under-assessed and under-managed (no quality control, kind of like how since supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, anything goes), but even for the good ones, they’re really limiting in how much good they do for you. A college degree of any kind, including the AS your son will get at the community college, means that he has skills in several areas (writing, basic math, principles of coding regardless of the language, etc). A specialty certificate means only that, a skill in one tiny area, and there is one particular employer who is interested just in that one tiny skill, the market of jobs he’d be eligible for is much bigger with the overall degree.

  8. wzrd1 says

    Way back in 1977 – 1979 period, I had attended RETS electronics school part time, while I was completing high school. I had decided that going into electronics was the way to go and was attending it on our dime, my spare time. I already had a decent knowledge of electronics from my own personal studies, some more in depth education and a certificate would pave the way toward a career.
    Needless to say, RETS was an accredited school, it had an associates degree program, I opted for the less expensive certification program.
    In the beginning, the quality was excellent, retention of instructors, exemplary. About half way through the 18 month course, the president of the school collapsed in his office and died of a major heart attack. Under the guidance of his VP, now president of the school, retention of instructors slipped more and more, the quality of instruction began to slip increasingly and our labs became studies of my correcting the thing, lest I burn out the components in the kit I had purchased to breadboard our circuits. When I complained to management, well, I might as well had complained to the street light on the corner.
    Seriously, a student having to correct a practical lab, lest the room fill with smoke!
    Well, the school’s reputation began to slip. When I had started, employers literally called students and told them when to report for work. By the time I completed schooling, some employers wouldn’t even return a call.

    A decade later, while working in a business with an excellent reputation, although under new management seeking to repair that problem, a student of RETS was hired as both an apprentice and to answer telephones. He was barely competent for the latter. I also learned from that student, test results were being openly sold by students to one another at RETS, job placement, a point used to sell their program – always, had sunk to placement being considered acceptable if someone graduated and got a job at an auto parts seller.
    After assessing the quality of his education via a number of hands on and theory discussions and several interviews with graduates, all resumes that had RETS listed as an educator were duly filed in the circular file.

    But, even back when I started at RETS, I’d have not enrolled at a for-profit “college” for a real degree. I’d have avoided the ivy league like the plague due to the cost, rather than drive my parents into poverty (they promised to pay for any degree I acquired, if I chose to do so). There are many, many colleges out there that give an excellent quality of education that aren’t ivy league.
    But, back then, things were still a great deal better. Today, for-profit schools are like trying to teach a sex education and health class to high school students at the Mustang Ranch. The only education acquired is on getting screwed out of one’s money, with about as much prostitution going on, just a lot less honesty about it.

    I am considering taking some courses though, although I’d first have to take a number of remedial courses, as I’ve forgotten even how to do quadratic equations and forget about what I remember from calculus. 1979 was a long time ago.
    But, picking up current knowledge in detail on subjects that have acquired a great deal more knowledge is an attractive prospect to me, I work a slingshot’s distance from a community college and LSU has a campus across the river from me and most importantly, my employer is generous in paying for educational expenses.
    That was one reason that I am working for the lousier pay, the benefits package is much better than higher paying employers. Compensation is a package, not a paycheck. :)
    And well, I really could use a challenge. Despite my act of being a knuckle dragger, my IQ is sufficient that friends have asked me why I haven’t joined MENSA. The reason is, I have a philosophical difference of opinion on a couple of points in the charter.

    Yes, I can hear the naysayers. Mathematics score, 128. Verbal, 138, spatial reasoning, 158, for a short list. I read at college junior level in 7th grade, 98% comprehension and read faster than the projector could display lines.
    And I’ve quite enjoyed talking with our interns, one, an engineering, with a physics minor had not learned about the theories involving muon catalyzed fusion or the potential for proton-boron fusion (the latter suggests greater probability of success within his lifetime than the former).
    I’m also conversant in the extreme on general and special relativity, it being such a much simpler subject. :)
    Combine the Lorentz transformation to special relativity, well, I derived that back in 10th grade, as it wasn’t in our text books.*

    *This, spurred by a conversation from earlier today on Orac’s site. I seem to do much better there as a person, maybe it’s an insecurity in my lack of a degree causing an issue. Something that I’ve been considering for some time now, adding to current extreme stresses in personal life.
    Again, for any discomfort or pain, I apologize.

  9. wzrd1 says

    @Mark Dowd, a fair number of hiring managers do look at the dates of training, when a school goes through its demise.
    Those circular file resumes I spoke of had some rather specific time periods to qualify for file 13.
    Or more simply, I’m not about to do without an employee that is qualified and likely excellent because of a school later screwing up badly.

    @carlie #7, I’ve attended a few boot camps, very few would I recommend, but some, I would. While I was deployed, there was a CISSP boot camp that I was able to attend. I’ll not advertise for free, but it was excellent. As a technical IT guy, that’s saying a lot, as CISSP training alone tends to lose technical types, as there’s zero technical in it, only theory, broad and wide. I also attended a CISCO VOIP boot camp and quite ably installed and supported a CISCO VOIP network (actually, two, classified and unclassified networks) after I had retired.
    It depends upon the trainer and company, which is not a selling point. That suggests a highly variable environment, where one trainer’s excellent and the next, well, might not be very good, as quality usually isn’t in such a contract.
    I’ve also walked out of a sub-par session of similar sorts a number of times, as the quality was so poor, I initiated failure to perform proceedings on that contractor.
    I loathe having my time wasted, save for my leisure time with my wife and family (it ain’t wasted) or by relaxation time, while I figure out the next step of an operation. The latter, typically being a cup of coffee time, considering the next step in whatever we’re currently handling, be it a breach or a significant configuration change.
    But, when I used a boot camp or when I considered a community college (I’ve used one twice, for targeted coursework), it was for highly targeted goals.
    I’m not interested in an AS, as my experience alone qualifies me equal with MS types, per multiple management/HR scales, due to experience.
    I am interested in filling gaps to MS level, even without the degree.
    But, when one is in one’s mid-50’s, one isn’t after a degree, simply knowledge of specific sorts or general knowledge.

    I’m also already missing my summer interns, what fun conversations we had on advanced subjects! I quite literally stayed after my midnight shift to talk, in between their assignments, for several hours.
    I learned new knowledge that was previously not known to exist, in areas I’m greatly interested in (which is wide and diverse), they learned other areas equally wide, plus highly specific things, such as scripting in multiple operating systems, to lower one’s workload, but increase one’s work capacity and how to handle errors when the script hits them.
    A month and spare change later, in my duties, I ended up handling the end result of the failure of the engineer to properly handle errors in his scripts and pass the error code back, so we got a “success” result, when the script couldn’t even log in, as he’s no longer with the company.
    I’ve noted that engineer’s name, should I go back into engineering again, he’d not be hired on until he gets a class in how to *properly* pass values back to the originating script or program, so that it could be properly reacted upon or logged.

  10. Knabb says

    Some of these for profit schools also try to disguise themselves. CollegeAmerica is the one I’m most familiar with – they’re distributed throughout the U.S. southwest, with a few locations in Colorado (my state, and the one where I’m most familiar with their tactics). They’re technically a non-profit, but their upper administration manages to make a huge amount of money. They advertise heavily*, and they’ve mostly done a pretty good job of putting out a good public face, with the one glaring hole being that the state of Colorado has a lawsuit against them for fraud and the journalism around said lawsuit tends to show how shady they really are.

    Point being: An allegedly nonprofit school may also be suspect. Some of the crooks who run these scams are smart enough to put up a veneer of respectability, and just because a school claims it isn’t for profit doesn’t mean it actually isn’t for profit.

    *Said advertising tends to be fairly blatantly directed at people likely to find more conventional colleges intimidating, which pretty much directly translates to scamming the poor out of their already meager incomes.

  11. brett says

    The website also details that credits earned by current students are “unlikely to transfer.”

    That is seriously horrible. The Federal government better forgive those loans like they did for the Corinthian students, because otherwise current ITT Tech students (some of whom were probably close to graduation) will be stuck with a pile of un-dischargeable for worthless credit hours. Hell, even if they do forgive them, they’ll still have lost years of time spent in classes.

    What does this mean for ITT Tech degree holders as well? They’ve got the degree, but it’s from a dead college with no transcripts available.

  12. tbp1 says

    Where I live there is a for-profit college with an excellent culinary school. It’s not cheap, and I don’t know how long the average student takes to pay off any loans they have, given starting salaries in the restaurant trade, but their graduates certainly don’t lack for work, and many have opened successful places of their own. When I’ve talked to grads, they all speak pretty highly of the instruction they received.

    I also don’t know how their students in other subjects do, but they appear to doing well in this area.

    Absolutely not the rule, I know but I thought I’d mention it.

  13. blf says

    I’m hugely suspicious of the before-mentioned “coding boot camps”, albeit I lack any (known-to-me) experience with them or any of their staff, students, or graduates. Two common complaints I read are a lack of accreditation, and an absence of standards. Also, I’ve read of exceptionally high pass rates, which would be good if I had some reason to believe there was meaningful evaluation / testing.

    My own suspicion is what they mostly “teach” is how to insert a floppy disc (Ok, I’m being a bit sarcastic there), use an editor to modify some pre-written (“canned”) something (e.g., javascript) for a webpage, see if it looks “Ok”, and claim “Done!” Noticeably lacking are things like problem description / analysis, security (a BIG omission!), design-for-test and actual testing, algorithms (in many senses), documentation (at any level, including actual messages (e.g., errors)), and so on. And on. And on and on.

    As a recent example (hypothetical only in the sense I have no idea if a “camp” graduate was involved or not), poopyhead recently highlighted a failure to consider the possibly “unknown” in a mapping(?) app: If it didn’t know your longitude (say), it would simply assign an fixed location. That is the sort of stooopidity, in design, in testing, and in quality, that I tend to assume most “camp” graduates would make. (As I recall, the app-maker’s “fix” was to assign a random(?) location. Which is still completely wrong, and doesn’t actually fix anything. It’s an “unknown” or “no data” situation. This boneheaded “fix” suggests they don’t understand the problem — lack-of-problem awareness (description / analysis) is one of the examples of what I suspect “camp” graduates aren’t taught.)

    My suspicion may be wrong-ish or even simply wrong, and I am talking in general terms (again, no accreditation or standards), and it does not preclude there being some which are reasonable and perhaps even worth the money. But they ring all kinds of alarm bells, and I’d be very cautious about any sort of involvement with them, be it as a student of staff, or as a “valuable” reference on a CV / résumé.

    Also, I understand the number of such “camps” have exploded recently, which presumably lowers the overall (already seemingly dubious) “quality” — and due to the lack of accreditation / standards, makes it hard for a prospective student to choose, or for a prospective employer to know if that line on the résumé is worth anything.

  14. multitool says

    I got my computer science degree in 1986, so you can imagine how relevant that information is today in 2016.

    Of what I use today, about 90% comes from reading code tutorials on Internet and asking questions of coworkers and other programmers online.

    A CSC degree is a nice gem on your resume, but far more impressive is any portfolio of actual work you have done. If you can’t get hired but have time for school, spend that time (and 0$ tuition) getting involved in an open source project online. If they’re all over your head, start your own project. Make friends with other coders (helpful non-jerks exist!), and don’t forget to learn all the non-coding disciplines relevant to your project too, color theory and linear algebra for graphics, set theory for logic, etc.

    The computer world changes so fast that it is hard to believe any formal degree program will be on the right track after 4 years.

  15. multitool says

    ITT going poof is a bit of a shock. As for-profit tech schools go, it feels like it’s been around forever.

    So you mean privatizing prisons and universities doesn’t bless them into a superior form? Who’s next, for-profit medicine and charter schools?

  16. blf says

    The computer world changes so fast that it is hard to believe any formal degree program will be on the right track after 4 years.

    Eh? Understanding the problem is understanding the problem; Good algorithm design is good algorithm design; The right data structuring is the right data structure; Documentation is documentation; Test is test; and it must be Maintainable. (I assume similar points can be made about “Management”, that is, running a project.) Most electronic computers are binary; All obey Reality™ (that is, Physics); and so on… Those sorts of basics haven’t changed to such an extent they are somehow unvaluable (and are the very things I myself suspect the “coding booting camps” mostly don’t teach). Certain details, of course, do evolve, and the basics themselves grow (just like most any other active area).

    What does move rapidly, by and large, are skills. My own knowledge of, e.g,, pre-ANSI K&R C, the TECO editor, and 9-track magnetic tape are now, mostly, historical artifacts. (Of those, I would have the most refreshing to do to use TECO again.) I suspect the “coding boot camps” large focus on currently-in-demand skill sets.

    As an example, at University we spent a fair amount of time on compiler construction (parsing theory, parser construction, semantic analysis, and so on, including — quite fortuitously as it later turned out — code generation). Years(much more than a decade) later, I was able to apply that code generation knowledge (with some refreshing) to, first, the architecting of an SoC, then again, still later, to a description translation compiler (that is, from metalanguage A to programming language B). It has also helped in the design of some security countermeasures, and in devising a workarounds to bugs in certain uncommon chips(the last case being about a year ago, many decades after my time at University). The chips, nor A, nor the modern form of B existed way back then, so those are all examples of evolving details and/or changing skills.

  17. multitool says

    @blf 17: Well OK ya got me, I went too far about how much knowledge becomes obsolete. It is an evolution, after all.

    But I will say, all of that ‘Cambrian Explosion’ of legacy computer science is still available online and in books one can buy outside of school. I somehow missed ever taking a compiler design course in college and yet have been able to catch up on parsers now that I’m writing a custom Java-to-C++ converter for a specific project. It ain’t beautiful, but it uses all of the same concepts.

  18. blank says

    Re: bootcamps. A good friend of mine (and later her husband) did a 7-week bootcamp in “data science.” Both of them got very well-paying tech jobs within weeks of program completion. However, both of them already had science PhDs, as the program specifically targeted science or social science PhDs who already had the necessary analytical and statistical skills and who just needed to have familiarity with the specific tools and programs used for data analysis outside of academia. Also, the program was free (I think potential employers pay the program to recruit their students), so the risk was relatively low.

    My friend was more than happy to get a job that both paid much more (we live in a notoriously high-cost-of-living area) and demanded fewer hours of her time than her crappy postdoc job with a famous PI. So it all worked out very well for her. But, that sort of camp is a far cry from the types of programs that target youths without any sort of degree…

  19. blf says

    multitool@18, Thanks. I hope it didn’t sound like I was jumping up-and-down on you.

    And I have some similar-ish experiences here. As two technological examples: I never studied any form of “networking” at University (and it is still a very weak area on my own résumé). Nor “security” as a subject on its own, albeit certain subsets are now rather strong on my own résumé, and some of those subsets — at least in any applied form — are not known-to-me to have even existed back in my University days.

  20. wzrd1 says

    I’ve saw boot camp programs that were utterly worthless, others that were eminently helpful. Usually, a syllabus helps to weed out the rubbish programs from the quality programs.

    Some years ago, I attended a Cisco VOIP boot camp, which was quite good and prepared me to implement a full VOIP telephone system on our installation on both the unclassified network and on our classified networks.
    At another boot camp, it was one of my preferred programs – steep learning curve, loads of new information being presented, in that case, in preparation for taking the CISSP certification test.
    The program quality was such that I took my Security + exam a week after, never having had to study anything Security + related. That exam was trivial compared to the CISSP exam (commonly referred to as an inch deep and a mile long).