New Lawsuit against ITT Tech
It seems as though no for-profit college is safe from scrutiny these days, something that most of us agree is abundantly good. Many issues have come to light as of late, though the government and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have yet to unearth all of the vile inner workings of the for-profit school world. ITT Tech, a for-profit technical institute with over 130 campuses, now has a law suit against it, recently filed by one Rodney Lipscomb.
Rodney Lipscomb was fired recently, he asserts that the reasoning is his refusal to back down in regards to complaining to his bosses about fraudulent practices. He alleges that Itt tech has violated the false claims act through what is known as predatory lending, or a systematic approach to attaining federal funding while not adhering to the conditions and stipulations placed upon them.
The suit alleges that ITT has repeatedly defrauded taxpayers by taking billions of dollars in federal student aid while systematically deceiving students and violating federal regulations.
ITT Tech allegedly used methods such as emotional motivation to secure students who are not financially or academically prepared to take on the massive amounts of student loan debt that comes with enrolling. Job placement rates were also falsified, students were all but guaranteed a position in the field of their education when initially enrolling just to find out that they can’t find work in that field, after they complete their schooling.
We see many cases of predatory lending as of late, most notably the now defunct Corinthian College chain. It’s a great thing to have whistle blowers such as Rodney Lipscomb that actually look out for the students’ best interest. Luckily, there are numerous programs for helping students like those who attended ITT Tech. Some students even qualify for complete and total forgiveness of their student loans. To find out more about this lawsuit, or to see if you qualify for forgiveness, give us a call at (800)784-1755 or fill out the form below.
These are just some of the abuses that Lipscomb claims occurred:
- According to Lipscomb, ITT Tallahassee admitted every high school graduate who applied, regardless of concerns about whether the student could succeed in the program. Example: A student applied to the ITT computer networking program, which requires students to read codes and identify plugs and wires by color in order to repair computers. The student was blind. Lipscomb raised concerns about whether the ITT program would actually help this student, but ITT’s recruiting director told him “it was not ITT’s problem” to dissuade the student. Lipscomb says he contacted a Florida disability agency and was told that federal law did not require ITT to admit the student, because he could not perform this computer repair work even with a reasonable employer accommodation. But a supervisor reprimanded Lipscomb for making that inquiry, and the student was enrolled. He dropped out after four weeks with an entire academic quarter’s worth of loan debt, no degree, and of course no job. (Now-defunct Corinthian Colleges faced similar criticism afterRepublic Report exposed in 2014 that its Everest College had admitted a student with apparent intellectual disabilities to its criminal justice program.)
- ITT recruiters in Florida were instructed by management to tell prospective students that if they enrolled in ITT’s criminal justice program, they could get jobs doing forensic science work like they saw on “CSI Miami.” In fact, the ITT program did not train students to do such work, and Lipscomb claims that upon discovering what recruiters were saying, he and Kysha Fedd, the campus chair of the criminal justice program, went to classrooms to inform current students, many of whom “became upset … and dropped out,” but still had to pay back their loans. Fedd resigned, saying “she could ‘no longer work for the devil’ and that she was extremely disappointed that the students were leaving ITT with almost $50,000 in debt and no job prospects except to work as a security guard in the mall.” (These kinds of allegations of a deceptive criminal justice program harming low-income students have been made with respect to other for-profit colleges, such as the awfulWestwood College.)
- ITT Tallahassee subsequently shut down its criminal justice program. So the director of recruiting told his staff that prospective students interested in criminal justice “should be steered to the business management program and told that they will be able to open their own private investigation business, even though that is not what the Business Management program is designed to train students to do.” (Such inappropriate steering has been charged by, among others, students at EDMC’s Art Institutes and former employees of the notorious EdSoup call center.)
- ITT managers instruct the school’s financial aid counselors to tell students to report less income than they actually have, or more dependents than they have, in order to increase federal financial aid. This allegation mirrors charges leveled in 2011 by a former Texas ITT financial aid staffer, Rashidah Smallwood.
- ITT managers also instruct financial aid counselors to tell students that “nobody pays back the loans anyways” — the same shocking advice exposed in a 2010 Government Accountability Office undercover investigation of 15 for-profit colleges.
- ITT’s Southeast regional manager Deborah Brent (no, not Wernham Hogg regional manager David Brent) and other officials instructed ITT recruiters “to ‘probe’ potential students about ‘what causes pain in their lives’ and then to ‘dig in’ to that pain.” This allegation echoes media and government reports dating back to 2011that ITT, Kaplan, and other for-profit school recruiting documents directed recruiters to imagine a “pain funnel” and to “poke the pain” of low self-esteem prospects.
- ITT Tallahassee held weekly “show meetings” where managers required recruiters to discuss their efforts to sign up students. When one recruiter expressed concern about enrolling a single mother who lived two hours from campus, the campus recruitment director instructed this subordinate “that it was not his role to judge what would be best for the student” and to instead say “two hours isn’t really insurmountable.” After Lipscomb complained about the tenor of these meetings, his superiors barred him from attending them.
- ITT would induce prospective students, many of them low-income, to enroll by offering them “free laptops.” In fact, the laptops were far from free, because they replaced the textbooks whose $800 cost had been built into student tuition, and a colleague of Lipscomb discovered that ITT was paying just $190 for the laptops. Moreover, only after ITT had distributed the laptops did it inform campuses that a student had to earn 36 credits before actually owning the laptop. One Tallahassee student who withdrew because of a medical emergency had his laptop confiscated, and when he re-enrolled the very next quarter, ITT charged him $350 for a replacement.
- In 2013, ITT announced it would start awarding a new “Opportunity Scholarship” to help students cover their costs at the school. Around the same time, Lipscomb and his colleagues applied for and received grants from a Florida non-profit group to help students pay their ITT tuition. They later discovered that ITT was eliminating Opportunity Scholarships for students who got the private grants, basically defeating the purpose of those grants but putting more money into ITT’s coffers.
- ITT pressured students to stay enrolled by telling staff to “keep the student’s financial aid ramifications in front of their face” and threatening to refer student loans to collections agencies if they dropped out, while explaining that if they stayed in school, the loans would be deferred.
- After Lipscomb filed repeated complaints about these practices and others, ITT’s national Director of Human Resources & Counsel, John Walls, traveled from the company’s Indiana headquarters to meet with Lipscomb and regional manager Brent. According to the complaint, “Walls told Lipscomb that no deceptive practices were being used at ITT, none of Lipscomb’s complaints had been substantiated, and to stop sending e-mail complaints. Walls also told Lipscomb that Lipscomb was ‘not an attorney’ and therefor[e] was not qualified to claim that any laws or policies had been violated.” A few months later, Lipscomb informed the campus director that he was planning to file a complaint with the Florida attorney general. A week after that, in January 2015, the campus director fired Lipscomb.