INDY STAR: ITT Tech’s new charter school to offer free AA degree — with a catch

Career College Central Summary:

  • The strongest selling point of the Early Career Academy, a tax-funded charter school scheduled to open next year in Indianapolis, is that its high school students will earn an associate degree free of charge.
  • But the degree comes with a catch: The credits from that degree likely will not transfer to any major university in the state if the students want to pursue four-year degrees.
  • There is, however, one institution guaranteed to accept the credits — the for-profit college sponsoring the charter school.
  • And that college — ITT Tech — is being sued by the federal government over claims that ITT provides an inferior education, charges steep tuition, and uses high-pressure sales techniques to lock students into an education most are unable to finish and into loans many are unable to pay off.
  • ITT has said the lawsuit is unfounded and filed a motion to dismiss it. The case is pending in the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana.
  • In Indiana, however, the Early Career Academy was authorized by an independent state agency in May 2013 with little apparent public discussion of the value of credits that do not transfer.
  • The Indiana Charter School Board staff “spoke with ITT about that sort of pipeline issue,” said board chairwoman Maureen Weber. “Was the goal to create a pipeline of future paying students?”
  • She said any concerns were mitigated because the charter school said students would graduate with an associate degree in hand, and the board didn’t discuss the matter at all in meetings — nor ask whether the credits would transfer.
  • Early Career Academy board chair Gary Carlson, a former ITT executive, said he is adamant about the separation between the charter school’s nonprofit board and ITT’s for-profit operation.
  • “We’re not going to promote or sell ITT,” he said. “We’re going to promote an opportunity that opens doors to students.”

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