Frustrations boil over for Portland ITT Tech students

Students gather at the shuttered ITT Tech campus in NE Portland Thursday.

Frustrations are boiling over for hundreds of Oregon students who attended ITT Technical Institute after the school shuttered campuses all across the country this week.

Dozens of students rallied together at their now former campus in northeast Portland Thursday as they wondered how to move forward.

“I have about $37,000 in student loans,” nursing student Rachael Weeks said. “I was just devastated [to hear of the closure] because I didn’t know where we stood. Are we going to get our degrees? Are we going to be able to sit for the state boards? Some of those questions still aren’t answered.”

Weeks and many of her friends have spent the last two years in the Breckenridge School of Nursing housed at the ITT Tech campus. She was supposed to graduate on September 29, as was Bobbi Wilson.

Wilson said she spent the last 27 months in the program and had already taken her finals. She has no idea if any of that work will be recognized.

“Now we’re being told we won’t have one. No pinning ceremony, no graduation, yet we worked so hard and we may not even get our diplomas,” she said. “All we want is answers. We don’t want to be – call this number, call that number… it’s like a big circle.”

Drafting students who were set to graduate in November also attended Thursday’s rally. They told FOX 12 the dean and assistant dean of the school told them during a final on August 29 that the plan was to do a “teach out,” where currently enrolled students could complete their programs, but no new students would be enrolled and the school would then close.

They were jarred with shock and disbelief when they found out, via a 4:00 a.m. email on Tuesday, that ITT Tech was closing across the country, effective immediately.

The school blames tougher government restrictions for forcing its hand, but the U.S. Department of Education said ITT Tech has been under investigation for years.

In the last two days, many students have been working tirelessly to find out whether credits will transfer to other institutions and whether student loans can be forgiven.

Some colleges will only accept a fraction of the coursework, while other colleges will accept none at all.

“If we do choose to keep the credits, then we have to do the loan and we aren’t allowed to get the loan forgiveness,” drafting student Grace Sobieralski explained. “Well, if the other campuses are only going to take two, three [or] four classes, we’re still screwed no matter what.”

Many ITT Tech students chose the program because they work full-time jobs or have kids and needed the flexibility the school offered. Now, they feel like collateral damage in a fight they never picked.

“My family has suffered, I’ve spent a lot of time away from my family, I had to uproot my daughter to be accepted to this program, I had to switch jobs, I literally had to make radical life changes in order to be a nursing student in this program,” Dawn Pfau said. “And I just hope there’s some redemption for the students who have put so much on hold to pursue this dream.”

The Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission has launched a site to offer resources for students affected by the ITT Tech closure, with one of the latest updates listing schools where students may transfer credits.

Copyright 2016 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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