For some local ITT Tech students, starting over may be more beneficial than transferring | St. Louis Public Radio

For some local ITT Tech students, starting over may be more beneficial than transferring

Sep 15, 2016

St. Louis area ITT Tech students have a decision to make if they want to continue their education now that their school has closed its doors.

The U.S. Department of Education is offering the students forgiveness on their federal loans, but if the students accept the offer they can’t transfer credits.

That means Missouri's estimated 700 ITT Tech students are most likely out either time or money, if not both.

Administrators at local institutions offering to help the displaced students say the best way to weigh the pros and cons is to come talk to them and get the particulars of their situation.

“As soon as we heard of the closing we really wanted to reach out to these students and give them an honest outlook of what their options are,” said Missy Borchardt, dean of enrollment management at Ranken Technical College, a nonprofit with two campuses in the St. Louis region.

Ranken is holding a series of open houses to let ITT Tech students learn about those options. Borchardt said 12 students came to its first session Tuesday, and four decided to get their old federal loans forgiven and start over at Ranken.

“That seems to be a common option for them as they’re learning that the programs aren’t exactly the same between colleges,” Borchardt said. “The curriculum that we have set up is specific, where you complete certain skills before you move on to the next semester.”

St. Louis Community College is also offering open houses to ITT Tech students. Chancellor Jeff Pittman said his school is accepting up to 30 general education credit hours from ITT Tech, but like Ranken will help students weigh if transferring or starting a new program is the better option.

Student Will Bruschi works with electrical wiring at Ranken Technical College's Programmable Logic Controllers Lab.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

"For example if the student had a large debt out there, they very may well want to consider (starting over) if it would be something that would be insurmountable or very difficult for them to pay back in the years to come,” Pittman said.

Both St. Louis Community College and Ranken Technical College are also offering free placement tests to ITT Tech students, which may help shorten course loads.

Ranken’s assessment includes a written portion and a hands-on skills portion to help the school know where to place students within their programs.

“We want to make sure that we’re placing them in the proper location in a program, in the proper courses, so they do succeed,” Borchardt said. “They’re really frustrated right now, and we don’t want to add to that. We want to help guide them for a successful degree and also a successful career.”

According to Borchardt part of the reason Ranken’s curriculum may be different from ITT Tech is that her school quickly adapts to industry needs.

“We’re a small enough college that we can change the curriculum when industry comes to us (and says) the demand is changing, the skills are changing,” Borchardt said.

St. Louis Community College says its job placement rate is 93 percent, and Ranken says its students have on average five job offers at graduation.

A spokesperson for Ranken said its general education courses cost $128 per credit hour, with technical and core courses costing $593 per hour. Ranken is a private, non-profit institution.

Thanks in part to state and local funding, tuition at St. Louis Community College is $106 per credit for students who live in St. Louis, St. Louis County and parts of Franklin and Jefferson counties.

Different schools offer different programs. Webster University also accepts up to 30 credit hours from ITT Tech. Jennifer Starkey of Webster University said ITT Tech students wanting four-year degrees sometimes transfer into the school’s criminology, business, IT and communications programs.

The Missouri Department of Education has a webpage dedicated to resources for ITT Tech students.

ITT Tech also has resources on its website.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.