The US Department of Education is continuing with its efforts to help students who have been affected by recent school closures, especially former students of the for-profit ITT Technical Institute.
Following ITT's announcement that it would close down its 130 campuses, the Department of Education contacted the Institute's roughly 35,000 students to share guidance, the department's website reports.
The department also announced on its official website the launch of online support packages to help college students, as well as the fact that a maximum of $500 million are being put towards federal loan forgiveness for former ITT Technical Institute students.
The online packages, available at NextStepsEdu.org, will match students with counselors who are experienced in giving academic aid and will aim to provide guidance on to proceed with their studies.
U.S. undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell said:
"Here at the Department we won't stop working to ensure ITT students remain inspired to pursue the promise of a higher education. I am grateful to the Beyond 12 and NASFAA teams for their leadership, creativity and commitment to aiding students affected by school closures."
The Education Department reported in its statement that the institution has joined Beyond 12 and that the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) has announced its new online package of supports aimed at aiding students affected by the closures.
Alexandra Bernadotte, CEO of Beyond 12, expressed her organization's desire to help students affected by the closures:
"We stepped up because we saw an urgent need for the education community to rally around students caught in the demise of their school. We are proud of this initiative and pleased to share our experience to provide displaced students with the help they need to make informed decisions about their next educational steps."
As reported by the Washington Post, students of ITT Technical Institute are facing a difficult decision process, with Bernadotte saying that "students at this stage are understandably confused. They're demoralized and dispirited by these closures."
Anyone enrolled in ITT or who left the school within the past 120 days is eligible for federal student loan forgiveness. However, students transferring credits to complete the same degree at another institution will be ineligible for this form of loan forgiveness.
ITT has also reportedly struck agreements with trade schools and career colleges, making it easier for students to transfer their credits.
In a letter sent to Education Secretary John B. King Jr., lawmakers gave high praise to the department for the guidance it is providing students, but they insisted more can still be done. They urged the department to extend the window for the closed-school loan discharge from 120 days so that it would cover the period in which the investigations and lawsuits leading to ITT's closure started mounting.
Beyond 12 is an organization that tracks student progress and is aimed at helping under-represented students to graduate from college. It is currently tracking 40,000 students and coaching about 2,000 students throughout the US.