Education Is About Dreaming

by Jeff Casimir
September 7, 2016

 

 

Yesterday ITT Tech suddenly shut the doors of its campuses across the country. For-profit education companies have borne the brunt of ridicule and scrutiny — much of it well deserved. But the impact on the roughly 48,000 students and staff left behind is devastating. What can we do to help?

 

48 years ago the story of ITT began like this:

 

The business that was eventually to become ITT Educational Services began as part of Howard W. Sams and Co. Inc., an Indianapolis-based publisher of technical training manuals and textbooks. Sams had been in the publishing business for almost 20 years when it decided to try its hand at running a private trade school. It established its first school — Sams Technical Institute — in Indianapolis in 1963. The institute, which taught electronics, consisted of 28 students. Sams acquired two more schools in 1965 and 1966: Teletronic Technical Institute, of Evansville, Indiana; and Acme Institute of Technology, Inc., in Dayton, Ohio. A fourth school was also opened in Fort Wayne, Indiana, during that time period. Howard W. Sams and Co. Inc. set out to offer technical education to the masses. — ITT History

 

Education is about aspiration. The educator seeks to open new doors for students. The students strive to better themselves and, in turn, their lives. It’s one of the most humanitarian acts in which we can engage.

 

The problem with for-profit education is that easy-to-access federal money upsets the balance of free-market economics. These schools, like ITT and the University of Phoenix, have fiduciary responsibilities to their investors and shareholders. Their first job is to be a profitable business; their second is to educate. 

 

When tuition funding is easily obtained, the schools are incentivized to drive enrollment even if it sacrifices outcomes. Without meaningful oversight, these organizations have grown explosively in the last decade, offering quick and cheap fixes to education for a wide audience of hopeful students. The Department of Education has recently begun investigating some of these organizations on the grounds that they falsified or misrepresented their outcomes to entice student enrollment.

 

When the DOE investigation led to new financial restrictions on ITT they had to close their doors. Other similar schools are waning, sputtering, or headed for closure. If they were misusing federal money and breaking the promises made to their students and staff, then this is a good thing in the long-run.

In the short-term there are 40,000 students kicked to the curb. They’re unsure about the transferability of credits, in an unclear financial predicament, and have no roadmap to figure for their academic future.

 

There are 8,000 educators and administrators left jobless. Many of them have surely dedicated a huge chunk of their lives to educating some of our least-served learners. Now they’re out of work and unsure whether their ITT experience will be an asset or a black mark on their resume.

 

What if we did something about it?

 

Our school is a non-profit. Our structures and motives are different. Our outcomes are transparent. Our alumni are loud and proud. We have our critics, but we’re working hard to ensure that our students achieve their dreams. We can do more.

 

To the students and staff of ITT Tech:

We want to help you find your next big thing. If you’ve been enrolled or employed at ITT in the 2016 calendar year, we’ve set up a special scholarship for you at Turing. For our class starting November 28th and all seven start dates in 2017, we’ll offer $5,000 scholarships to two of you in each cohort. We’re offering $80K in scholarships all together, funded solely out of our pocket. 

 

You believe in the power of technology to change the world. You want to build the skills to be great. You are our people and we’d love to have you join us.

 

Read more about the school at http://turing.io . Go through the standard application/admissions process at http://apply.turing.io . When accepted, send Erin ([email protected]) a copy of a 2016 transcript or paystub. She’ll send you back a short essay request so we can choose the most in-need folks for each cohort.

 

Sixteen Turing grads won’t make up for 48,000 people abandoned today, but it’s a start. Let’s dream together.

 

____

 

Jeff Casimir is the Founder & Executive Director of Turing School of Software & Design. He typically teaches Module 1, has lots of coffee meetings, and launches scholarship programs without asking the board for approval.

 

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