GUEST COMMENTARY: Consider demographics in evaluating colleges

2014-06-02T10:45:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Consider demographics in evaluating collegesBy Kevin M. Modany nwitimes.com
June 02, 2014 10:45 am  • 

Tough questions are being asked these days about the cost and value of higher education. That’s an important discussion, because we believe no issue is more critical for the future of the U.S. economy than higher education.

Unfortunately, a misguided government attack on career colleges has derailed the discussion, muddied the issues and sown much misinformation. Often missing from the public debate are critical facts about the affordability of career education and its value to students and their communities.

That’s why the ITT Technical Institutes, a leading provider of postsecondary career-based education, is working hard to set the record straight.

Here are the facts about ITT Tech:

  • We have reduced the cost of the vast majority of our programs in recent years, and have not increased tuition in four years.
  • We have increased institutional scholarships. Last year, we provided students with over $170 million in scholarships which further lowered the program cost for about 65 percent of students.
  • We have become more affordable for our Hoosier students. Currently, the average student loan debt of 2013 associate degree program graduates nationally is approximately $23,000. Today, less than 0.1 percent of our students nationally rely on private student loans to finance their education.
  • We are helping Hoosier students build better lives. Based on the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, our graduation rates are about twice the average graduation rates of community colleges serving the same student demographic.
  • We have an extensive network of Indiana and national employers. More than 104 Indiana employers participated in our recent program advisory committee meetings to provide feedback on our curricula. More than 14,000 employers nationally have hired one of our graduates.
  • We are helping Hoosier students secure employment. About 70 percent of our 2013 ITT Technical Institute employable graduates nationally obtained employment in positions using knowledge and skills taught in their program of study.
  • We strive to offer career-based programs of study in fields where job growth is projected to exceed the national average. The majority of our programs are in STEM-related fields, such as network administration, electronics engineering technology, drafting and design technology, and nursing.
  • We primarily serve nontraditional students – adults who juggle work, family and school. Depending on student enrollment, class sessions are generally available during the day and evening and students can also attend their programs year-round. These options are not always available at public and other private institutions.
  • We have devoted substantial resources to compliance. We are subject to oversight and regulation by about 75 federal and state entities and accrediting agencies. Every day, we strive to comply with all of their requirements.

In light of these facts, we urge policymakers and regulators to get the discussion about the cost and value of higher education back on track for the sake of the students who need the option of a career college. Rather than singling out career-based education for attacks, our leaders should focus on developing metrics that hold all educational institutions accountable to risk-adjusted metrics that are based on the demographics of the students served.

This approach would have two benefits. First, it would preserve the array of choice needed to serve a diverse workforce in which adult and career-based education is becoming increasingly important. Second, it would help students make informed decisions and easily compare their educational options from one institution to another.

Kevin M. Modany is chairman and CEO of Carmel-based ITT Educational Services Inc. The opinions are the writer's.

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