It was a heartbreaking sight in the East Bay Tuesday when people walked up to their school and realized it is now defunct.
The company that runs ITT Technical Institute announced Tuesday that "with profound regret" it was shutting down academic operations at all of its campuses and thousands of its employees will lose their jobs.
The move comes after the federal government banned the Carmel, Indiana-based for-profit chain last month from enrolling students who use federal loans to pay for classes.
Some students became emotional as they discussed what happens next.
"It's all shot now," Dennis Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson was just one quarter away from earning his degree. However, the “Welcome Back” sign at ITT’s Oakland campus was marked with locked doors and no answers on Tuesday.
Tomlinson, who had been part of the cybersecurity program, said there were "enough teachers" and described ITT as a "good school."
Paul Hansford and Arrow Metcalf also came to the campus Tuesday in disbelief.
They heard the news and saw on the internet that ITT in Oakland has shuttered. The Department of Education said transcripts will be available and students should look into transferring their units to other schools.
But Hansford and Metcalf, who described feeling a “little bit of frustration,” couldn’t access their transcripts Tuesday. Calling the school’s phone number didn’t lead to answers either, Metcalf said.
“All we're trying to do is learn,” Hansford said. “I work full time, go to school full time.”
ITT operates vocational schools at more than 130 campuses in 38 states, often under the ITT Technical Institute name. Last year, it enrolled 45,000 students and reported $850 million in revenue.
Officials with the Department of Education announced on Aug. 25 the ban on enrolling students with federal loans and other measures against the chain, which has been the subject of state and federal investigations focusing on its recruiting and accounting practices.
Among the measures, ITT was ordered to pay $152 million to the department within 30 days to cover student refunds and other liabilities in case the company closed. ITT is still paying another $44 million demanded by the department in June for the same reason.
The Education Department also prohibited ITT from awarding its executives any pay raises or bonuses, and said it must develop "teach-out" plans that would help current students finish their programs at other colleges if the chain shut down.
For her part, a subcontractor with the city of Oakland expressed worry for those who found themselves without jobs Tuesday.
“When you lose your job, you wonder, ‘Where will money come for my expenses?’” said Cheryl Maier of the Oakland Private Industry Council.
Last month, a group that accredits ITT found that the chain failed to meet several basic standards and was unlikely to comply in the future.
One of the biggest for-profit chains in the nation, ITT has been under increasing scrutiny from the Education Department following allegations of misconduct. It has also been sued about the quality of its programs and high-cost private student loans.
Student John Lane, also a quarter away from finishing his training, said his dreams are on hold now.
“I would’ve gotten a job somewhere,” he said.