TAMPA, FL (WFLA) — Former students of for-profit colleges, like Art Institute and ITT, are filing for federal student loan debt forgiveness in record numbers.
The US Department of Education confirms to News Channel 8 that more than 7,500 claims totaling more than $160 million were filed by late last year.
Art Institute of Tampa graduate Sydney Andrade is preparing his claim package. He says he graduated owing more than $80,000
“If what was actually promised to be the education and what was promised to be my curriculum actually panned out the way they said it would, I would gladly pay for this,” says Andrade, who now lives in Austin, Texas.
Andrade accuses the school of lying about qualified instructors and industry-standard learning tools. He adds this forced him to teach himself much of what he knows through video game art and design YouTube videos. He also tells News Channel 8 the school didn’t deliver on an in-field job placement promise. Andrade claims the school helped him get an $8 per hour job making copies at Office Depot, which doesn’t require a college degree.
“What the art institute considers the fields for game art and design includes Game Stop, Office Depot,” says Andrade, who tells 8 On Your Side that he has recruiting catalogs to prove their promises.
Andrade joins thousands of students nationwide claiming fraud at for-profit colleges, but some current students aren’t so sure.
Current Art Institute of Tampa student Javier Amaya explains, “The school can only do so much, and you as a student need to do the rest.”
“When you sign up to pay for that [school] I think you’re obligated to pay it back,” adds fellow student Vincent Hayman.
Documents provided by the US Department of Education to News Channel 8 show more than 1,000 claims were paid out as of late last year; five of those tied to Florida schools.
The Art Institute’s parent company, EDMC, won’t discuss individual student claims, but tells News Channel 8 it has agreed on more transparent recruiting and disclosure standards, adding that this is not an admission of wrongdoing. The US Department of Education continues investigating claims.