Niki Howland

ITT Tech took advantage of my dreams by selling me lies. I was one of those “statistics”: a poor and naïve girl who could be convinced into taking out loans I would never be able to repay. I was perfect prey for the predator that is ITT Tech.

In June 2002, I was 18. I knew nothing about credit or lending as I come from a poor family. My mom was a single mother working as a waitress making $2.13 per hour plus tips while supporting three children, myself being the oldest. I myself was unemployed and had no vehicle at the time. Determined to break the cycle of poverty in my family, I put together a life plan. Central to that plan was getting a college degree that could help me obtain a well-paying and satisfying job.

I called an ITT Tech recruiter after seeing a commercial. She immediately rushed me through the loan process. She told me this school would cost me around $18k with my PELL grant. As she was instructed to do by her supervisor, she promised me a great job–assuring me that ITT grads earned an average salary of $60,000 and many made six figure salaries.

These were all lies. All I have is a revolving cycle of outrageously high interest debt with a useless piece of paper ITT Tech calls my AA “degree” in Applied Computer Science – Computer Network Systems. I tried for six years to find a job in my field until I realized it was hopeless. I hadn’t actually learned any of the skills I was supposed to. The job placement assistance I was promised never materialized.

Although I had no idea I was taking them out at the time, I ended up with nine different federal loans, half unsubsidized and half subsidized, totaling around $22,500 and three different private loans totalling $6,074. Due to ridiculously high compounding interest rates, I owe more on these loans today than I did when I took them out.

The student debt crisis ruins lives. My student debt affects the lives of my children, my husband and myself. Our pain is profit for lenders, loan servicers, guaranty agencies, and the United States government.

I am fighting for class-wide student debt discharge for all victims of defunct for-profit colleges. The student debt crisis needs bipartisan reform and our debts need to be fully eradicated.