Action 9 investigates college accused of predatory lending

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LAKE MARY, Fla. - An Orlando woman claims a college is holding her transcripts hostage because she wants to enroll in another school.

ITT Technical Institute claims it just wants her to finish paying her tuition first.

Action 9's Todd Ulrich found the college faces a federal lawsuit for high-pressure loan tactics, so he went to the top school managers for answers and results.

Ashley Morales is a college graduate with a diploma from ITT Tech, an associate’s degree in drafting. But as she tried to enroll in a four-year program, she can't prove she graduated.

“I can't move forward from here. They have my transcripts, and I can't get them," she said.

According to Morales, ITT refused to release her transcripts because of a $3,000 debt.  She said the school approved a payment plan but only if she attends ITT again.

“I think they're holding it hostage, and it's not right,” said Morales.

Morales said she first reapplied to ITT Tech, but the school moved its campus from south Orlando to Lake Mary.

“I had to find something closer. Lake Mary was too far to drive, and I had to have something I could afford,” said Morales.

Thinking the school would still honor the payment plan, she enrolled in the University of Phoenix but then had to quit because she could not get her transcripts.

“It wasn't my fault. They closed their doors,” said Morales.

Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued ITT claiming it used predatory loan tactics that included withholding transcripts. It's a lawsuit ITT said should never have been filed, and it denies all the allegations.

The company told Action 9 its student catalog states transcripts would not be released if there are unpaid fees but typically if a student requests and honors a payment plan, the records are released.

That's what Morales wanted to hear.

“I just want my transcripts to finish school, that's all I want," she said.

Morales told Ulrich she will reapply for a payment plan, so she can go back to school.

ITT Tech is rated F by the Better Business Bureau for unanswered and unresolved complaints.

ITT written response:

We do not charge students a fee for a copy of their transcript – nor would we waive any such fee, if we had one, if a student decided to enroll in our institution. 

Ms. Morales requested her transcript in February.  Per ITT Tech’s policy, the transcript was not released because she had an outstanding and unpaid balance with the school. 

Please refer to our Student Catalog, which is available online, for information about fees and academic transcripts. Our records show the outstanding balance was carried over from two ITT Tech locations Ms. Morales attended in Tennessee back in 2010. 

Ms. Morales received an associate degree from the ITT Tech in Getzville, TN before applying for her bachelor’s program in Lake Mary, FL. 

Attached is the Cost Summary and Payment Addendum Ms. Morales signed when she enrolled at the Lake Mary campus in February 2014 in which she acknowledged the outstanding balance that was carried over from the prior ITT Tech locations.

Typically, if a student contacts ITT Tech’s finance department and gets on a payment plan, his or her transcript will be released to the requested institution.

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