Columbia, SC - Students at ITT Technical Institute in Columbia are upset after the company abruptly announced they were shutting down.
The company said Wednesday they would have to close their operations after sanctions from the U.S. Department of Education.
"It is with profound regret that we must report that ITT Educational Services, Inc. will discontinue academic operations at all of its ITT Technical Institutes permanently after approximately 50 years of continuous service," said in a statement.
Students told News19 they received an e-mail from the company around the same time the statement was put out. Michael Dempsey, one of the students at the Columbia campus, said he was set to finish his degree by December.
"I'm just screwed, that's all there is to it," he said. "I just have to hope someone can help me out."
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Education barred ITT from enrolling new students who depend on federal aid and required the company to warn current students that its accreditation is in jeopardy. ITT also was told that it must increase its reserves from $94.4 million to $247.3 million, or 40% of federal student aid the company received in 2015.
The financial blow was too much for Carmel-based ITT to bear, so the decision was made to shutter operations, a move that will impact thousands of students and employees.
"The actions of and sanctions from the U.S. Department of Education have forced us to cease operations of the ITT Technical Institutes, and we will not be offering our September quarter," the company went on to say. "We reached this decision only after having exhausted the exploration of alternatives, including transfer of the schools to a non-profit or public institution."
"For everything I worked so hard for to go down the drain in the blink of an eye,' said D'Angela Geathers, another of the Columbia students.
The company said its focus and priority will be using the remaining staff to help displaced students with their records and future educational options.
Education Department Secretary John B. King Jr. has called the moves against ITT necessary to protect students and taxpayers. The college chain has faced fraud charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission. ITT also is being investigated by about 20 state attorneys general.
The U.S. Department of Education previously stated that students who attend ITT on federal aid can get their loans discharged if ITT closes. Even past students, who have graduated or dropped out, can file claims to get their federal loans forgiven. But veterans have no recourse.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill gives veterans 36 months of college tuition, plus expenses, to attend the school of their choice. It makes no accommodation for students who are enrolled in a school that closes.
Dempsey said he is one of those who relied on VA money. He said he's getting married soon, and was hoping the degree could help him with his career.
"What's my degree even going to be worth if it's from ITT Tech?," he said. "It's going to be worth nothing "
ITT's enrollment was declining prior to the federal restrictions. In the three-month period ended June 30, ITT enrolled 9,846 new students, an 18.3% decline from a year earlier. ITT in July said it expected new student enrollment to fall 45% to 60% in the second half of the year.