The author, Lorenzo Boyland, is a former student of the for-profit ITT Technical Institute campus in Cordova, TN and resides in Mississippi.
My future was stolen by a corporation. Now, I’m left waiting for justice.
There are thousands who could tell a similar story. This is mine.
When I graduated high school, I joined the military and served my country. I served a four-year tour, and then re-upped for four more years, finishing in Iraq.
When I returned home, it was time to find a job. I graduated from high school near the top of my class. I was an honorably discharged veteran. But I knew I needed a college degree.
One of my best friends told me about ITT’s campus in Cordova, Tennessee, which was conveniently located close to my home. When I sat down with ITT’s recruitment person, it seemed like a perfect fit.
I wanted to pursue a career in computer science. The recruiter promised that if I graduated from ITT, I was guaranteed a job. They promised that if I maintained a 3.4 grade point average, I would receive a discount on my tuition. I made the school aware that I was a military veteran and that my G.I. Bill would help to cover the cost of tuition. They told me not to worry about taking out additional loans, because ITT would put me on track for a well-paying career.
I was excited about beginning my higher education, which ITT sold me as the beginning of the next stage of my life. Then I learned that ITT was all a fraud.
I cared about my education, and I worked hard for my degree. I graduated with that 3.4 and honors. ITT never delivered the promised tuition discount.
I went to the career placement office for help finding a job. They pointed me to the job board at the front of the room. And they referred me to a retail job at Best Buy.
I thought – that’s what you’re recommending to me? I paid thousands of dollars to you and all you can recommend is Best Buy? I could have done that out of high school.
I went out to find a job on my own, but I did not have many connections. I was directly out of the military and had been away for eight years. I learned very quickly that the ITT diploma was not worth anything to companies looking to hire, and employers frequently laughed at me when they learned I attended ITT. I studied and succeeded, but the computer science job I worked so hard for never materialized.
When I told ITT that I could not get a job in computer networking, they told me that it was because I only had an associate degree, and that I should enroll for a bachelor’s. ITT tried to prey on my inability to get a job due to their broken promises to convince me to further fund their scam. At that point I realized that I, like so many others, had been completely ripped off.
Since I could not get a job in computer networking, I began working as an overnight baker at Panera. That job allowed me to start making payments toward my $34,000 in federal loans from ITT.
Then I got a call that felt like a punch in the gut. It was Chase Bank asking about another $18,000 loan in my name. I had no earthly idea what they were talking about.
Turns out, ITT had signed me up for an additional private loan without my knowledge. And it was 1000 days past due! I was completely blindsided.
I am continuing to pay down my federal loan. But that private loan? I’ll probably get another call today asking me to pay. I don’t blame the people on the phone – they are just doing their job. But that loan is impossible to get caught up on.
My financial situation wears on me every day. I work hard to try to earn enough to live while paying off my loans. I should not have to pay a dime given the egregious lies ITT sold me.
I am not alone. ITT routinely lied to hundreds of thousands of other students. They targeted people who were eligible for federal loans and grants –including low-income people and veterans like me – and took advantage of our dreams and ambitions.
I work hard. I served my country. I went to college to build a better life. ITT profited off of my aspirations and left me nothing. ITT’s actions were wrong and illegal. It perpetrated a fraud on hundreds of thousands of students. ITT put us all in a hole without a shovel to dig ourselves out.
ITT declared bankruptcy in September 2016, and even then, only stopped collecting money from students after students sued in the bankruptcy. This week, a judge has finally canceled some ITT debts based on that case.
However, like thousands of other former students, I am still paying federal student loans that funded a school that no longer exists.
We are still waiting for justice.
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