Browsing through the latest news releases from ITT Technical Institute you'd never think the for-profit school would be capable of the things that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says the state is suing it for. The school, which boasts of over 130 locations in 38 states, touts its efforts for women in STEM, its donation of laptops to public schools in Indiana and its record giving for United Way.
But AG Healey is suing ITT Tech "for engaging in unfair and harassing sales tactics and misleading students about the quality of its Computer Network Systems program, and the success of the program’s graduates in finding jobs." The suit alleges this took place between 2010 and 2013.
“These students were exploited and pressured to enroll with the promise of great careers and high salaries, but were instead left unable to repay their loans and support their families,” AG Healey said in a statement. “Our office has a history of going after predatory for-profit schools and will not stand for students in Massachusetts being treated simply as a source of income.”
ITT Educational Services, however, rejected the AG office's claims and lashed out at the office for the manner in which it has brought the suit. ITT's statement reads in part: "The litigation follows the Office's wide-ranging fishing expedition that lasted for more than three years. Although ITT/ESI cooperated fully in the investigation, and presented evidence that its conduct was lawful, the Attorney General's Office has suddenly elected litigation over working with ITT/ESI to address any legitimate concerns it might have about ITT/ESI's practices." (Read entire ITT statement here.)
The AG says admissions reps told prospective students that 80% to 100% of grads got jobs in their field of study, but the real numbers are closer to 50% or less. The AG wasn't buying ITT Tech's claim, for example, that selling computers at big box stores counted as a job in computer network systems.
ITT disputed such stats: "It appears that the Attorney General's Office generated its own unreliable placement rates based on incomplete information it collected by surveying a small subset of individuals many years after they graduated," according to the ITT statement.
The AG office describes a relentless pursuit of students by ITT Tech, with admissions representatives being under huge pressure to call up to 100 prospects per day. (I mainly think of the school as advertising on late night TV, hoping to influence the overtired.)
"ITT also advertised and promoted hands-on training and personalized attention through its program, but students said their experience involved the use of outdated technology, absent teachers, or being told to 'Google' the answers to questions," according to the AG's office.
The Computer Network Systems program is the largest program at each of ITT's two Massachusetts campuses, with enrollments exceeding 100 students per campus annually.
If Massachusetts wins its case, which seeks civil penalties, students could get reimbursed for tuition and fees paid. ITT says it will dedicate necessary resources to defend itself against the claims brought in the suit by the state.
ITT Tech has had its hands full in recent years dealing with shareholder lawsuits and suits from other states. The school isn't alone, either, in coming under fire for sketchy or illegal practices, as the U.S. government is cracking down on other for-profit schools as well. One example: The FTC suing DeVry University earlier this year for allegedly deceiving students about job prospects.