Testimony of Adam Gonyea, Veteran and Former For-Profit College Student
The following is a statement from Adam Gonyea that was presented at the Career Education Programs and Federal Financial Aid event on February 17, 2011. You can read about the event here.
Immediately after High School I joined the US NAVY as an aircraft electrician. I spent most of my career working on F/A 18's in Virginia Beach. Like many young service members I had aspirations of higher education and was depending on the G.I. Bill to pay for it. While in the service my interests began to shift from electronics to Information Technology, and I often saw commercials on TV and radio from ITT Technical Institute advertising their computer networking security program. I believed that the best way to grow in a new career was to take a break from active duty military and attend college full time.
I immediately noticed a difference with ITT Tech, as compared to other education institutions. Other colleges I had contacted would do little more than invite me to open campus days or send me brochures. ITT Tech however actively pursued me as soon as I had expressed interest. Minutes after I filled out an on line form, a recruiter called me. He then called every day, telling me it was more urgent for me sign up. I also noticed that the entrance exam for ITT Tech was ludicrously easy when compared to another institution I was considering. In end it was my recruiters’ insistence that national accreditation was superior to regional that convinced me to attend ITT Tech.
The financial aid administrators at ITT seemed very skilled in finding funds for my education, including grants and scholarships and even completed all of the paperwork for my G.I. Bill benefits. Unfortunately the bills started to come. The ink on the paperwork had hardly dried before I was required to pay the school $800 out of pocket. I would later learn that ITT was making more money off my attendance than I was even aware of. My cost for a year and a half of enrollment was $36,000. I received $19,000 in federal loans, $7,000 from the Pell Grant, $250 a month from a military scholarship and $1,300 a month in G.I. Bill benefits.
The expensive tuition did not seem to go toward a quality education. I saw very little of the school’s income go to staff or equipment. Some of my instructors were very passionate about their fields and would go the extra mile in providing value to my education, although some had to compensate for the school’s extremely slow network and outdated equipment by bringing software from home . However, the majorityof teachers seemed less than concerned with the quality of education. . On one occasion I came to suspect that one of my instructors was not actually grading my homework. I confirmed this suspicion by placing notes in my reports and projects inviting the reader to confirm that they were actually reading what I wrote. Without fail if I turned in anything with my name spelled correctly I was guaranteed an A+!
What little I did learn from my time at ITT Technical, I learned by buying my own books and doing my own on line research. Not only was the school in the habit of issuing text books for the wrong Operating System we were required to learn, but much of the software I used at the school was actually pirated.
I was dropped from ITT Tech due to administrative ineptitude. I needed to go on a business trip for my employer, and prior to the trip I notified every instructor of the exact dates I would be gone. I also had a representative of my company personally contact the chairman of IT at ITT Tech. This chairmen made a miscalculation in determining how the absence would stack with the school's attendance policy. The result was that upon my return that I was no longer a student at ITT Tech and the school which was so eager to enroll me was not interested in retaining me. I asked everyone I could, including the Dean of the Norfolk campus, and was told that there was nothing that they could do, but I was free to re-enroll next year.
I decided that it would be important to protect myself financially from the school. I had financial aid prepare transcripts on the day I was dropped to show how much I owed the school or how much they owed me. That was when I was shocked to discover just how much money ITT Tech had made off of me. My financial dealings with the school amounted to $36,000 and the transcript revealed that the school had overcharged me by $1300 in the last month. As an additional blow, within two months of leaving ITT Tech, they sent me a bill for $2,000 and a transcript that showed clear signs that it was altered in a way to specifically make my positive balance disappear and create a negative balance. I called the institution and revealed that I had saved copies of my finances that conflicted with the version they had mailed to me. The school never bothered me again about the $2,000 discrepancy.
In hindsight I regret attending ITT Tech. The institution provided at best an absolute minimum education and left me with nearly insurmountable debt. Even worse, ITT Tech took tax payer money in the form of grants and my entire G.I. Bill, amounting to a net loss on all taxpaying Americans. In these times marked by budget crises it is paramount that an investment is made in ensuring that educational institutions that benefit from any type of tax payer money provide genuine value to educating their students. When more people are educated, our national wealth increases -- not only in home grown innovation and talent, but earning power and therefore tax revenue. Regulating these 'for profit' schools is therefore the fiscally conservative thing to do.
Watch Adam's statement from the event:
SOURCE: Shereen Hall