Former ITT Tech Students Talk About School’s High-Pressure Sales Tactics, Underwhelming Classes

The recent collapse of ITT Technical Institute has left thousands of students stranded, unsure if they’ll be able to finish their educations, repay their loans, or even transfer their credits to other schools. Now, some of these ITT students are talking to Consumerist about the school’s high-pressure marketing, underwhelming courses, poor job-placement, and other shady practices.

ITT’s demise may have seemed sudden to those watching from the outside, but the fall of ITT and parent company ITT Educational Services was long in the coming and had been presaged by a string of investigations and lawsuits alleging questionable job-placement statistics, grade manipulation, bad marketing practices, and harmful loan products.

Much of what the world has heard in these cases has come in regulatory filings and legal documents, but now that ITT students have been left with half-finished educations, many of them are willing to speak publicly about their time at the school.

‘Promised Me The World’

Image courtesy of the_justified_sinner

If a college relies on high levels of student enrollment not just to function, but to make a profit for investors, some employees may try unusual or high-pressure sales tactics to recruit students and get them to enroll as soon as possible.

Don, a former ITT student, tells Consumerist he was “heavily persuaded” by a recruiter to enroll in that program while still trying to decide what to do with his life after high school.

“The recruiter took me around the so-called campus… he damn near promised me the world”

“A recruiter heard me speaking to a friend on the train regarding school and confronted me at the end of the ride,” he recalls. “He suggested that I set up an appointment with him tour the school.”

Don, who at first thought that the recruiter was a “godsend,” says he quickly found himself on the receiving end of aggressive emails and voice messages.

Still, when Don realized the campus was so close, he set up an appointment to visit.

“The recruiter took me around the so-called campus, which was all of five minutes, and became so aggressive that I was signed up to attend the next month,” he tells Consumerist. “That day he damn near promised me the world.”

Don says the recruiter told him he could transfer his credits to other schools, that professors would be nurturing, that ITT had employers check in on students they were seeking to recruit.

“He also told me that at anytime if I was uncomfortable about the school at any point to come see him and he would make it right because he was very hands on,” remembers Don.

Another former student, Fred, says he first became aware of ITT Tech when he was in high school, as recruiters would frequently show up at the vocational program at his school and make a pitch promising a “way to get out of a town that was going nowhere.”

“As a senior, they came to my computer programming class, made their sell, and a group of us all decided to go there,” Fred tells Consumerist. “The biggest thing I remember was their suggestion that upon graduation, I would make six figures starting a career.”

That’s more than most college graduates will make right out of school, regardless of where they are from or what they studied, so it’s not hard to see how this promise of a big payday led Fred and others to enroll.

However, credits earned by the students were not transferable to other institutions and the degrees obtained by some students could not serve as a basis for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or other advanced degrees at other academic institutions, the suit claims.

However, according to at least two lawsuits against the school — one filed by nursing students and the other by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, ITT and its recruiters were misleading students to believe their lives would be significantly better off after they enrolled in classes.

For example, the nursing students claim that the credits they earned were not transferable to other institutions and that some nursing degrees offered by ITT could not serve as a basis for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or other advanced degrees elsewhere.

‘Not What I Signed Up For’

Image courtesy of Freaktography

The ITT students we heard from said that the classes they paid for did not live up to the promises made by recruiters.

In fact, some students say the instructional level at the schools was severely lacking.

“At no time during the courses, did I learn anything that I didn’t already understand.”

Fred, enticed by the recruiter’s talk of a top-notch computer programing course, quickly found that the school he enrolled at didn’t even have the Computer Networking Systems Technology degree he wanted to pursue.

“So I took electronics for three months,” he says. “I hated it, didn’t get it, and was already regretting my decision.”

While the recruiter promised the course was “very computer oriented,” Fred was surprised to find it was all about “soldering circuit boards and the like.”

Luckily, or so he thought, the school came out with the network classes the next year.

“At no time during the courses, did I learn anything that I didn’t already understand,” says Fred. “It never took things to the ‘next level.’ I would consider the courses basic for anyone who had a background in computers in high school.”

Don, who was learning CAD (computer-aided design) at the school, says his instructor was often difficult to understand, and he and his classmates started to depend on each other.

“Two weeks into the course we had a take-home quiz,” he recalls. “I stayed up the whole night working on this quiz and my measurements for the blueprint didn’t seem to come together so I got to the school very early to find half of my class there already and very upset that they had the same problem.”

When the class found the instructor, he became irritated and told students they needed to pay more attention.

“We asked him to show us what we were doing wrong,” Don said. “Needless to say he had no idea what he was doing. He even tried to tell us that he wasn’t really good in the math part and that CAD was the only thing available at the school to teach.”

Realizing he wasn’t getting what he paid for, Don went back to that recruiter who had first pitched the school to him while on the train.

Don says the recruiter apologized for getting him “into this mess” and admitted that “the school was a gimmick and a ripoff.”

According to Don, the advisor suggested that if Don dropped out right away he would not be charged the full semester tuition, but he ultimately received a garnishment notice for $24,000.

‘Brutal’ Financial Aid

Image courtesy of Steven Depolo

Like many for-profit schools, a large percentage of ITT students relied on financial aid to pay for tuition. Former students now suggest that ITT Tech was, at times, overly eager to get its hands on these funds.

Rob, who enrolled at an Indiana campus in 2007, recalls the financial aid department being “brutal.”

In many cases, he says that the department employees would ask for his PIN, username, and password so they could take care of the fund transfers without his involvement.

Rob says ITT would “then proceed to fill out all of my information for me as fast as they possibly could without me even seeing their computer screen or fully explaining what they were doing,” he says. “Sometimes going as far as completing my digital signature on my behalf, possibly even more than I knew about.”

Kristy, who attended ITT online, says her financial aid officer repeatedly locked her out of her courses for failing to turn over a tax document that didn’t exist.

“Every time I told her I didn’t have them she would temporarily lock me out of my classes,” she recalls. “You can imagine a six- or 12- week course and I would be locked out for a week or more until I convinced her it was causing me to fail. Then she told me she would let me back in but I had to get that information.”

Only, according to Kristy, she didn’t have the information and even called the IRS to request a letter stating that they didn’t have the tax information the school was looking for.

“I got that letter six to 10 weeks later,” Kristy tells Consumerist. “Literally the day I faxed it to her she wrote to me and told me that since I do not have that information she has to lock me out of my last two courses indefinitely. And she did just that.”

That happened during the last week of classes when a final project — worth 25% of her grade — was due.

“Long story short I failed both of those classes,” says Kristy, who never completed the ITT program.

What Job Placement?

Image courtesy of Adam Fagen

As these ITT students eventually found out, those promises of six-figure salaries and tales of eager corporate recruiters waiting to snatch up ITT grads were fictions.

“The ‘job placement’ was not what you thought,” Fred says. “I never received any.”

“[The Career Center] would try to get me to send them information on available positions instead of the other way around.”

And he wasn’t alone.

“The people who finished the course with me, none had the job placement suggested,” he tells Consumerist. “A few of them made careers in IT, most didn’t.”

Fred says he was lucky enough to have a connection to help him get the foot in the door for an IT job, but in spite of that ITT education, he still doesn’t make six figures.

Rob says that not did the ITT Career Center fail to get him a job, “They actually would try to get me to send them information on available positions instead of the other way around.”

In the end, he landed a job on his own without any assistance from ITT, but the Career Center kept calling — in an effort to gin up their placement stats.

According to Rob, the school repeatedly called him and his new employer, trying to get them to sign a document stating that ITT had gotten him the job.

“They would call every single day and would say that it was something I needed to complete before I was officially graduated,” he recalls.

While Rob says he’s been steadily employed since his time with the school, he often hears from human resources reps that they weed out applicants with ITT degrees.

“I have probably lost dozens of positions due to being among the alumni of ITT,” he says.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.