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Graduates three times more likely to default on loans from for-profit colleges

Students at Richmond’s ITT Technical Institute campus found the doors locked, following the company's announcement it is ending operations. (Source: NBC12) Students at Richmond’s ITT Technical Institute campus found the doors locked, following the company's announcement it is ending operations. (Source: NBC12)
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

The likelihood of a student defaulting on their loans at a for-profit college are three times higher than any four-year public or nonprofit school.

Brent Jones went back to school at age 31 -- after his first child was born.

"We decided we really couldn't afford to live paycheck to paycheck," said Jones.

So did James Moss: He wanted to make his daughter proud.

"I have an 11-year-old daughter I'd do anything in the world for," said Moss.

They were both seeking an Associate’s Degree in Applied Sciences and were looking to break into cyber security.

Both were told their degrees would cost around $45,000 and that the school would wave about $23,000, leaving them each with about $24,000 in debt - debt they could pay in student loans.

"I guess for a lot of students, that just sounds so great. More than basically half was being taken care of," said Jones.

Both attended ITT Technical Institute, which shut its doors in August before either finished their degrees.

A degree that now might not be worth anything.

"I don't have any paper to show for it, other than a note with my name on it," said Moss.

Earlier this year, the accrediting council overseeing for-profit schools called into question ITT's integrity and finances.

Then the Education Department said it had lost faith ITT would survive the scrutiny and banned its schools from accepting new students who would rely on federal aid.

In a statement posted to its website, ITT  called the federal sanctions "unwarranted actions, taken without proving a single allegation."

The school added that "we believe the government's action was inappropriate and unconstitutional" but acknowledged it just couldn't survive it.

"Clearly there's a big problem in the for-profit colleges," said Debbie Cochran with the Institute for College Access and Success.

"Schools that are just enrolling students, allowing them or encouraging them to take on high levels of debt, knowing that they won't be able to repay them. That's more of a debt factory than anything else."

ITT Technical is not the first for-profit school to shut its doors. Several more have fought and/or settled lawsuits in court.

There are 8.1 million people are in default right now, they can't pay their loans.

Just in Virginia, the schools with the highest rate of students in default and the fewest number of graduates actually repaying their loans are mainly "for-profits."

"These are indicators of not just where students are struggling with loan debt. but really indicators were we have severe questions about college quality," said Cochran.

"They always say you can't put a price on a good education," said Jones.

He’s working to have his loans erased.

Moss has transferred to a new school and is considering legal action against ITT.

"I never quit at anything in my life," Moss said. "I'm not about to start now. My parent's didn't make me that way."

Just in the last two weeks the Obama administration finalized new rules aimed to overhaul the system and help students get their federal loans erased in cases involving fraud and misconduct by their schools. The rules also put colleges financially on the hook for repaying loans instead of taxpayers.

For-profit colleges have been lobbying against the rules, describing them as unfair regulation meant to take down their industry.

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