With five quarters completed and only three quarters left, Emilee Wheatley was on her way to earning a nursing degree from ITT Technical Institute.
On top of traveling from Seymour to Louisville, Kentucky, three days a week for school and one day for clinicals, the 28-year-old mother of two worked 12-hour shifts the other three days of the week at Hoosier Christian Village in Brownstown.
Her ultimate goal was to become a registered nurse.
But a week before classes were scheduled to begin in September, she received an email saying the for-profit ITT Tech college was permanently closed.
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Suddenly, she was among 40,000 students across the United States who attended the privately owned, for-profit college trying to understand what had happened.
“My first reaction was, ‘This can’t be true,'” Wheatley said. “I called the school and got no answer on the phone. I sent emails and texts to ITT staff members and students just to get confirmation that the email was in fact true. No one knew what to do next.”
On Aug. 25, the U.S. Department of Education imposed a series of new requirements and conditions on ITT Tech:
- Posting a letter of credit or other cash deposit with the Department of Education of nearly $250 million.
- Imposing a freeze on its receipt of Pell Grants and student loans for all students.
- Prohibiting the enrollment of any new students who needed any federal grants or loans to finance their education.
The school proposed alternatives to the Department of Education, including giving time to sell its schools to another company that would continue students’ education or conducting an orderly closure of its schools over the course of the September term.
But the Department of Education rejected the proposals and stood by its new requirements.
ITT Tech learned the restrictions were put in place because the school’s accrediting agency, Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, said it was not fully in compliance with accreditation standards earlier in the year.
ITT Tech closed all of its nearly 130 campuses across the country. The school had been in operation for more than 50 years.
Students weren’t sure if their academic credits would be recognized at other schools or if their college debts would be cleared. The closure also left 8,000 people without a job.
Wheatley said she received emails from ITT Tech saying the Department of Education would work with other schools to try to get credits transferred. But she also was told if she wants her loans dismissed, her credits would not transfer to another school.
Wheatley found some colleges that wouldn’t accept any of her credits, while some would accept credits from general education classes but not her nursing classes.
She is now working to get her loans dismissed, but it will take some time.
“The last I talked to the Department of Education, they told me it would be weeks or months until we were able to get them dismissed,” Wheatley said. “However, they wasted no time putting the loans on my credit check. I have $15,000 from ITT put on my credit check already.”
Wheatley said she also had spent a lot of money on school-related needs, including scrubs, clinical uniforms, stethoscopes, laptops, extra books and white shoes. Gas also was a big expense because it was a two-hour round trip from her home to school and clinicals.
“I was always busy,” she said. “If I was not at work, I was home studying. If not there, I was at school. I did homework and read on each break and lunch I got at work. I stayed up late, missed family time, family trips. My time was 100 percent dedicated to nursing school.”
Wheatley said she was on the dean’s list each quarter and had completed 12 classes, which ranged from three to eight credits apiece. ITT Tech operated in quarters, and classes were 12 weeks long.
Some classes also had clinicals and labs, while some were just in-class training. Her clinicals were at a nursing home in Louisville once a week.
Wheatley said support from her two children, Kennedy, 2, and Brooklynn, 7, fiance, Matt Posey, and other family members allowed her to dedicate so much time to school.
She plans to continue working part time as a certified nursing assistant at Hoosier Christian Village.
She also recently began working part time at Seymour Eye Clinic and said she plans to do online classes and on-the-job training to become an optician.
“I have chosen a different path,” Wheatley said. “Everything happens for a reason, and I feel like there was a different plan for me. I am blessed I am able to be a part of the team at Seymour Eye Clinic and hope to fulfill my future here as an optician.”
After each ITT Technical Institute campus closes and the Student Portal is no longer accessible, students will be able to obtain records and other key contact information online at itt-tech.edu.