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Federal debt from ITT Technical Institute loans to be discharged

 ITT Technical Institute's northeast Pennsylvania campus used to be located at the Medical Plaza at 1000 Meade Street in Dunmore.
Tom Riese
ITT Technical Institute's Northeast Pennsylvania campus used to be located at the Medical Plaza at 1000 Meade Street in Dunmore.

The initiative is separate from Biden's federal student debt forgiveness plan, which made headlines last month.

Christopher Myers began a program at ITT Technical Institute’s Dunmore campus in 2014. He was supposed to graduate in December 2016.

"In September of 2016, they told us not to come back," Myers said.

September 2016 is when ITT Tech, a for-profit college group, folded and shut down all 130 of its campuses. Seven of those campuses existed in Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and two in the Philadelphia suburbs.

But on Aug. 16, the Biden administration wiped out almost $4 billion in federal debt for about 208,000 students who attended ITT Tech school between 2005 and 2016. That announcement came after the government’s June decision that students who attended another for-profit college group, Corinthian Colleges Inc., would have $5.8 billion of their debt forgiven.

All in all, Myers said his experience wasn’t that bad, despite the school dissolving. He now has a job in his field. But, when Myers first went to check out ITT Tech Dunmore he said he felt a little pressed.

"Like pressured a little bit, trying to get people through the door," he said.

Myers ended up receiving credit for courses through ITT Tech for his Computer Networking Systems program. The school wanted students to transfer those credits to nearby Luzerne County Community College to finish up their degrees.

Myers didn't feel the need to finish up at the local community college, as he was already working in his field. Because the ITT Tech campus folded before his graduation date, Myers already qualified for a type of loan forgiveness through the for-profit group.

In a U.S. Department of Education statement, Secretary Miguel Cardona said that "evidence shows that for years, ITT's leaders intentionally misled students about the quality of their programs in order to profit off federal student loan programs, with no regard for the hardship this would cause.”

A former executive from ITT Tech Dunmore did not immediately respond for comment.

In addition to ITT Tech and Corinthian College schools, the Education Department has also taken steps to wipe out debt for students who attended Kaplan Career Institute programs and DeVry University schools.

On Aug. 24 President Joe Biden announced a widespread, but targeted, federal student loan forgiveness plan. Most borrowers earning under $125,000 would see $10,000 in forgiveness if approved. Under that same plan, Pell Grant recipients could see up to $20,000 discharged if they are approved.

Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's Morning Edition. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.
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