ITT Tech schools close, leaving tens of thousands of students in the lurch

NEW YORK -- Another for-profit college has gone bust, leaving tens of thousands of students in the lurch.

ITT Educational Services announced on Tuesday that it is shutting down immediately, accusing the federal government of unfairly stripping it of eligibility for student aid.

The company, which was established nearly 50 ago, operates ITT Technical Institutes. It has around 40,000 students taking classes on campuses and online throughout the United States.

The school said it will focus on helping students get their class records and figure out their next steps.

ITT said it eliminated the jobs of the "overwhelming majority" of more than 8,000 employees on Tuesday. ITT Tech stopped enrolling new students on Aug. 29, just a few days after it was cut off from a significant amount of federal funding by the government.

The Department of Education told the company on Aug. 25 that it couldn't enroll new students who use federal financial aid. The school accused federal officials of forcing the closure and denying it due process.

The company has been the subject of state and federal probes for various reasons, including its recruitment tactics, lending practices and job placement figures.

In order to have access to federal student loans, schools need to be accredited by a government-recognized accrediting agency. ITT Educational Services was found to be out of compliance with its accreditor's standards twice this year, according to the Department of Education.

For-profit schools tend to rely heavily on federal student aid.

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools recently asked the company for proof of why its accreditation should not be withdrawn or suspended.

Enrollment has been slipping for a while. In July, the company reported its new student enrollment dropped almost 22 percent from the same period the year before.

When a school closes its doors, it can leave its students stuck without a degree and massive student loans.

Corinthian Colleges filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May  2015 in the wake of alleged predatory lending practices and accusations of inflated job placement numbers, leaving about 16,000 students stuck without a degree, and thousands more with huge debts. Some students were eventually able to receive debt relief.

The Department of Education has said that ITT Educational Services' students could be eligible for a closed school loan discharge.

Enrollment in for-profit schools increased in the years following the recession when job growth was weak and people were looking to hone their skills or switch to more in-demand careers.

A letter sent by ITT to a student answers questions about the shutdown.