CITY PAGES: ITT TECH SELLS AN AMERICAN DREAM OF BROKEN LIVES AND FINANCIAL RUIN

Career College Central Summary:

  • The hard sell went down in a sun-baked office. Across an aircraft carrier of a desk, an ITT Tech admissions rep looked at Joseph White with a toothy smile.
  • Did he want to enroll today? she asked.
  • White, then 24, said nothing at first. As he pondered signing up for an ITT associate's degree, which would require a two-year commitment and $38,000 in debt, he revisited the pinball trajectory of his life.
  • The son of a Chrysler career man and homemaker mom, he'd already taken two stabs at traditional colleges only to bag because he "was worried there'd be no money studying French."
  • Now, as he contemplated making a third attempt by way of a computer electronic engineering degree, White was earning just above minimum wage at a McDonald's drive-thru.
  • "It all sounds great," he finally said, "but I don't know if I'm comfortable doing this today. I'd like to have some more time and think about it."
  • Her smile flattened. "Do you really want to work at McDonald's the rest of your life?"
  • White was soon inking a maelstrom of documents, including ITT's arbitration clause, which he would later learn forbids him from ever being able to sue the school.
  • "After she said that, I'm like, 'Yeah, you're right,'" he says. "At the time, it seemed like a good decision. ITT said all the right things. How their graduates were in demand by good employers. How I'd be marketable and the career center would help me find a job, which I was told would likely mean a six-figure income."
  • White earned his degree, graduating with a 3.12 G.P.A.
  • A few weeks before commencement, an ITT staffer approached him, talking up the school's software engineering bachelor's program. White, the employee insisted, was a natural fit.
  • He enrolled the next month.
  • Two degrees, $80,000 in debt, and innumerable rejections later, the 37-year-old is currently unemployed. This spring, he was laid off as a computer support contractor with Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
  • He's never sniffed that six-figure salary.
  • "Employers didn't consider ITT a real school and looked at my degree as if it was a joke."

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