Massachusetts Just Sued a Major For-Profit College Chain

April 6th 2016

Last week, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued ITT Tech, the for-profit college giant, for using overly aggressive recruitment tactics and inflating the quality of its programs.

ITT Tech commercialYouTube/ITT Tech - youtube.com

The suit is the latest legal action against the embattled school, and it comes as for-profit colleges are increasingly under fire for using deceptive marketing and hamstringing students with student debt and poor job prospects.

This quote sums up how they use students for income.

A quote included in the AG's complaint from a graduate of ITT Tech's Computer Network Systems program — one of the school's largest programs and one which school recruitment officers are accused of aggressively overselling — sheds light on how for-profit schools' revenue models might keep students enrolled.

"[T]hey get so much of your money invested they make it impossible to withdraw without a huge financial loss. They treat students as purely a source of income."

The former student's observation is key to understanding the mechanisms that keep for-profit schools running. By often working aggressively to enroll low-income, minority, and at-risk students with attractive wagers that promise good jobs and healthy salaries for relatively small time investments in the degree programs themselves. That promise works by exploiting the college dream, as Mother Jones put it.

How ITT Tech is allegedly deceiving students.

ITT Tech commercial ITT Tech/ISpot - ispot.tv

ITT Tech is accused of "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," according to the law suit. The school's admissions representatives allegedly told students its graduates' job prospects for positions in their field of study were between 80 and 100 percent, when the actual placement rates hovered somewhere around 50 percent or less.

"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 wrote in the complaint.

ITT TechFlickr/Northridge Alumni Bear Fact - flickr.com

The school has been criticized before for mismanaging financial aid dollars and has faced lawsuits from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Securities and Exchange Commission. And it's hardly alone. After an investigation revealed unfair marketing practices toward U.S. veterans, University of Phoenix was suspended from a government tuition-assistance program. Corinthian College was fined $30 million by the Department of Education for presenting students with inaccurate statistics for job placement numbers, graduation rates, and attendance figures. It ended up closing its campuses and filing for bankruptcy.

As graduates seek schools that will better prepare them for the future, for-profit schools don't seem to uphold their promise of job security.

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