I.T.T. to P.C.C?
The ITT Technical Institute, an infamous national for-profit chain of colleges, closed abruptly on September 6, 2016. This included the two Oregon campuses that were authorized to offer associate and bachelor’s degrees by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission or HECC. The sudden closure of Oregon’s Salem and Portland ITT Tech campuses left over 500 students without a path to complete their educations, and the closure of ITT Tech’s nursing program presented a particular challenge; both because of the large number of students (nearly 300), and the acute lack of capacity in other nearby nursing programs.
I sat down with Elizabeth Lundy, the VP of Academic/Personal Affairs at PCC, in her office on a typical Portland day, and we discussed the future of these students and their possible place here at PCC. Many Portland area schools, including Clark, Oregon Tech, Clackamas, and Mount Hood were able to help ITT students, but none could help students wanting to complete their nursing degree. That’s where PCC is stepping up. PCC is reaching out for approval and financial help from several agencies to provide a teach out program under the umbrella of Portland Community College.
The ITT Tech students received very little notice of their school closing, just five days before classes were scheduled to begin. Those students have been in contact with the US department of education, student aid division, as well as the Oregon State Board of Nursing. Some of them are eligible for a loan forgiveness program if they choose not to transfer credits into the PCC-to-be program. Those who take the loan forgiveness would still retain their Federal aid eligibility in the future if they go into a different type of program. This is an attractive offer for those early in the program.
PCC and other schools are required by their accreditation agency, known as the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, to maintain a program all the way until graduation for students have begun their studies. ITT Tech did not create any such opportunity for such students and closed its doors on them mid-way through the program.
There are still some hurdles for PCC to go through to develop this new program, but it is well underway. It certainly will be an expensive endeavor for the college. Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) are planning to propose a request to the legislative emergency board that meets in December to allocate funding, so they can pay the faculty and rent facilities to do the teach out program. If all things go through they will get approval from federal aid for students to use their aid for this new program. They’ve already done all of the internal work as far as looking at the curriculum and courses that can transfer. Getting the degree approved along with the future curriculum that will be used as the framework, already went through the state’s Community College and Workforce Development Office and was approved. PCC is currently in the process of sending it through to their accreditation agency for its approval.
The college has already talked with the US department of education, student financial services, and the department of veteran affairs so students able to receive financial aid would be approved for the program. The students would then be admitted to PCC as Portland Community College students. The college is targeting students that are in the second half of the program who are close to finishing. It will take them about five quarters starting in January to get the last of the students through. That is, if they can get this program approved. A promising future awaits those that would have otherwise been left behind. The HECC staff has been in contact with former ITT Tech students since September to ensure that they are aware of all their options, and will continue to keep students informed as this work progresses.