Baldwin, Senators: We Must Do More to Provide Debt Relief & Support to Students, Veterans Suffering from Wide-Ranging Impacts of ITT Tech Closure
In a new letter to Education Dept., 23 Senators say ITT Tech’s “deceptive practices” and “dubious educational quality” rightly required action to halt new enrollment and continued use of taxpayer dollars
Senators now call on ED to “use its existing legal authority” to increase total debt relief and support available to former ITT Tech students
Senators: “These students will never get back the time and energy they have devoted to a college that left them locked outside the door, and deserve every penny back that they put in to their education”
WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, as a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and 21 other senators in sending a letter commending the U.S. Department of Education (“the Department”) for its decision to stop additional federal student aid from flowing to ITT Educational Services, Inc. (“ITT Tech”). Following these restrictions, and serious concerns echoed by law enforcement agencies and ITT Tech’s accreditor, with regard to the company’s “deceptive practices, dubious educational quality, and financial integrity,” ITT Tech announced that it would halt operations and shutdown all of its campuses on September 6, 2016.
Approximately 35,000 students are estimated to have been enrolled at ITT Tech immediately prior to closure. According to the U.S. Department of Education, that number includes 123 students at the Madison campus, 370 at Greenfield, and 34 connected to a Green Bay campus that was closed earlier this year.
“We commend the Department’s action to halt taxpayer dollars from flowing to a school that could no longer demonstrate academic integrity or financial responsibility,” wrote the Senators in the letter. “These transitions are never easy for students, but we remain hopeful that by doing everything possible to make it easier, and by making sure students are getting the relief they should, ITT Tech’s former students will be able to move past this challenge and continue on their path to success.”
In the letter, the Senators urge the Department to “use its existing legal authority to increase the total debt relief and support available to former ITT Tech students.” Specifically, the Senators are requesting an extension of the current 120-day window to allow students who withdraw before the school’s closure to still receive a discharge, making loan discharge more automatic for students that don’t fill out a formal application, stopping collections on ITT Tech borrowers in default, and for steps to prevent or retract any negative credit bureau reporting by loan servicers.
The letter also calls on the Department to collaborate with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure that veterans who were enrolled at ITT Tech are able to make informed decisions about how to best use any remaining GI Bill benefits.
“Postsecondary education should be a pathway to the middle class, and predatory colleges that damage these dreams by targeting and exploiting our neediest students must be held accountable…We support the Department’s work in maintaining accountability in higher education and making sure students are always being put first.”
The full list of Senators signing the letter include: Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The letter follows a series of requests by Senate Democrats, led by Senator Murray and supported by Baldwin, to strengthen college accountability and protect students using the Administration’s authority under the Higher Education Act. Senate Democrats’ efforts to improve college accountability began in April with a push to hold college accreditors accountable, and the Department took steps toward that goal when it issued a staff recommendation to terminate the recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). In June, Senate Democrats called for action to protect servicemembers and veterans through a strengthened 90/10 rule. And most recently in July, Senate Democrats sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) calling for strengthened “oversight, enforcement, and accountability” of colleges receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
A copy of letter the senators sent is available here.
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