By Ben Kane

A high-quality education, a decent paying job, a life that one can be happy with and proud of. These are things that everyone wants. For veterans, however, it’s what they’ve earned.

In late March, the non-profit organization Veterans Education Success hosted a meeting be-tween numerous veteran’s organizations—including Jewish War Veterans, and Thomas Corbett, Air Force veteran and disillusioned former president of an ITT Technical Institute campus. The purpose of the meeting was to make the numerous veterans’ affairs groups in attendance aware of the predatory methods employed by for-profit educational institutions. If any of their veteran members were targeted by these institutions in the past or are targeted in the future, these organizations now have additional knowledge and resources they can employ to help victims recover.

If you watched enough TV in the early 2000s, you might recall some commercials for ITT Technical Institute. The commercials of this “institute of higher learning” featured your standard middle class, middle American pursuing the American dream and looking for a brighter future and a means to care for their family. The commercials made enticing offers that promoted the vision that a degree from ITT was a calling card to a brighter, more rewarding future.

But ITT Technical Institute was a for-profit college, and an exceptionally predatory one at that. ITT Tech corporate targeted people from all walks of life but was especially zealous in its targeting of members in the veteran community. Thousands of veterans sought the fulfilling educational programs that ITT Tech seemed to offer and used their GI bills to make sure they were able to receive what ITT Tech was offering. Thanks to federal grants and loans, a sizeable number of the student body was lower class or of a military background.

The intention of ITT Tech and other similar predatory for-profit schools was never to give students a high-quality education, but rather to siphon as much money out of them as they could. The cost was higher than advertised, the adjunct professors could hardly be relied upon to be knowledge-able in the subject they taught, school credits could not be transferred, and since anyone could attend ITT Tech if they had a pulse and a GED, the degrees became largely worthless. In addition, the extraordinarily high cost of the school meant that many had to take out loans to afford it, putting in financial peril many of those who assumed they would be virtually guaranteed a high paying job when they graduated. One of the ways ITT Tech and other predatory educational institutions reveals its despera-tion for tuition payment is an excessive persistence to enroll a student. If loans need to be taken for the student to be able to afford enrollment, then so be it. These institutions will do anything they can to get potential students to sign on the dotted line, and excessive persistence on the part of an educational institution should be considered a red flag.

The scheme didn’t last forever, and pressure from the government and from angry current and former students eventually caused the bankruptcy of ITT Tech in 2016, and the $500 million student debt relief settlement in 2018. It is worth noting that even in its death throes, ITT Tech’s incompetence and utter disregard for its students and employees was palpable. Initially promising that all students still enrolled at the time of bankruptcy would be able to complete their education, students, teachers, even administrators of campuses found the doors of those campuses permanently locked with no warning.
ITT Tech was and is no more. However, for-profit “educational institutions” still exist, still prey on unsuspecting students, and may soon see a growth in numbers due to the Trump administrations plans to weaken protections for students.

Fortunately for the veteran community, there are organizations dedicated to helping those who have fallen victim to predatory targeting by for-profit education institutions. If you believe that you or someone you know has been predatorily targeted by a for-profit institution due to your military status, or to get information on student loan forgiveness programs, don’t hesitate to contact one of the many non-profits like JWV and the Veterans Education Success that can and want to help you.

Volume 73. Number 1. 2019