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MURRAY — ITT Technical Institute is closing its campuses nationwide, including its Murray location, the for-profit college announced Tuesday.
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Education prohibited ITT Tech from accepting new students who planned to use federal aid to finance their enrollment there.
ITT Tech says it was also ordered to pay $250 million by the end of September to the federal government. That payment was required "in case the school’s actions cause it to close," Ted Mitchell, U.S. undersecretary of education, said in a prepared statement at the time.
In a letter to students Tuesday, ITT Tech cited those requirements, calling them "unprecedented in the history of the Department of Education," as the impetus for the closures, which are effective immediately.
"We proposed alternatives to the department, including giving us time to sell our schools to another company that would continue your education or conducting an orderly closure of our schools over the course of the September term," ITT Tech said in a statement. "Days ago, the Department of Education told us they were rejecting our proposals, and standing by their new requirements."
The Murray campus is one of ITT Tech's 130 locations across the United States and the only one in Utah. Multiple college evaluation websites list the enrollment at that campus as a little more than 400 students.
In all, about 35,000 students are affected by the closures. Roughly 8,000 faculty nationwide are out of jobs.
Shawn Christensen, an ITT Tech student in Murray, said he feels betrayed by the closure.
”That’s a lot of money to put in and a lot of time invested to have thrown back in your face," he said.
Christensen also believes ITT Tech's communication about the restrictions against it in recent days has been poor.
”Not even the teachers knew what was going on," he said.
Christensen had only completed two terms at ITT Tech, but he said he feels especially sorry for those who were close to graduating and were given "no warning sign" that the federal sanctions would affect their education so quickly.
"They've been kind of really shady on the whole thing," he said of ITT Tech administrators.
Christensen added that his plan is to "pick a different school and start over." He said he is disappointed, in part because he enjoyed his time at ITT Tech.
"I thought it was great," he said. "The teachers were fabulous. You got the one-on-one (instruction). They were all willing to make sure you passed. It was way different from a community college setup."
U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr. announced Tuesday that ITT Tech students' federal loans can be "wiped away" if they meet certain requirements. Alternatively, students can transfer their credits to another school, though how many of those credits are successfully transferred depends on the new school, King explained.
"It is important to note that transferring your credits may limit your ability to have your federal loans discharged," he said Tuesday in an online letter to affected students.
In its message to students, ITT Tech characterized the Department of Education as heavy-handed, saying it was "forced" to close campuses in light of new federal demands.
"ITT has been financially sound, had no intention of closing down, and has been responsive to all of the requests of the various regulatory agencies that oversee our schools," the message reads.
According to King, the sanctions from the Department of Education were handed down because of concerns over ITT Tech's finances and its capacity to benefit students.
"Ultimately, we made a difficult choice to pursue additional oversight in order to protect you, other students, and taxpayers from potentially worse educational and financial damage in the future if ITT was allowed to continue operating without increased oversight and assurances to better serve students," he wrote.
The Utah State Board of Education had no comment on ITT Tech's closure. ITT Tech administrators in Utah could not be reached. On campus, a few unretrieved newspapers lay scattered outside one of the building's entrances.
Salt Lake Community College spokesman Joy Tlou said Tuesday that the college is looking into how it might be affected by ITT Tech's closure.
"SLCC is currently exploring the capacity to work with students who are in this situation," Tlou said.
He added that all students' credit transfers will be "considered on a case-by-case basis." Tlou declined to elaborate, citing the recency of ITT Tech's announcement.
Contributing: Ladd Egan, KSL TV; Associated Press