(Updated on July 28 at noon)A group of protesters, including students, teachers and members of advocacy group Higher Ed, Not Debt, chanted and waved signs outside of the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn this morning.
The demonstration was held while for-profit college ITT Technical Institute held its annual shareholders meeting inside. The approximately 20-person protest group received honks from passing cars as they shouted complaints about how ITT Tech handles its marketing, course credit, loans and executive compensation.
“ITT what the Hell? Your CEOs should go to jail,” protesters chanted at the cars driving into Arlington from Key Bridge.
ITT Tech’s marketing promises students a sought-after degree and transferable course credits, but this is not always the case, said former ITT Tech student Anthony Byrd. Byrd attended ITT Tech in 2011 in order to get course credits he needed to attend Drexel University. However, when he called Drexel, he found out that his credits did not transfer.
Other students often leave ITT Tech only to find their degrees don’t count for much or that their credits are only transferable to another for-profit college, Byrd said. ITT Tech does say that the transferability of credits is at the sole discretion of the institution receiving the credits.
“I think a lot of students who attend ITT have no idea what’s going on until after they graduate,” Byrd said. He ended up leaving ITT Tech, but he still has debt for his time there, he said.
ITT Tech has a problem with students defaulting on student loans, with more students defaulting on loans than graduating at many of the ITT campuses, said Maggie Thompson, the campaign manager for Higher Ed, Not Debt.
ITT Tech CEO Kevin Modany spoke with Bryd at the protest, but Thompson said it is important that the shareholders pay attention. Shareholders are able to pressure the school into giving more support to students, reducing executive pay and focusing less on advertising.
“We really feel the schools needs to stop investing in executive compensation and more in students and teaching,” she said.
ITT Tech is not the only for-profit school where there are problems with loans and transferring credits, said Dahn Shaulis, an adjunct teacher at Burlington County College. Shaulis researches for-profit colleges and has found there are multiple instances where students end up defaulting on loans or cannot use the degrees they earned.
“These students have been defrauded,” he said. “They were lied to.”
This morning’s protest was also supported by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the group Student Debt Action and the Center for American Progress.
ITT Tech Vice President of Government Affairs Nicole Elam said that the protests are often staged with recruited protesters. ITT Tech has lowered its tuition and increased scholarships to help address debt problems, she said.
“We believe these protests are staged and have nothing to do with providing accurate information to students or shareholders about the debt or success of our students,” Elam said.
ITT, Modany and another executive were charged with fraud in May, with federal regulators alleging that the company hid the poor performance of student loan programs from shareholders.