September 26, 2016

My Experience at ITT Tech

I never thought I was scammed. Here is my story.

After graduation from high school in 1988, I had three options: find immediate full time work, join the military or go to technical school. ITT was the only game in town that I was aware of as far as tech schools went. At least they were the one that had tv commercials and name recognition.

My grades and lack of classes that would prepare me for actual college kept me from even attempting to enroll in one. You see, most colleges don't look favorably to someone with a sub-2.5 GPA and finishing in about the lowest 10% of their class. The good news was that I had an aptitude for drawing so that started the pendulum swaying toward tech school. Even though I scored in the upper 2-3% in the ASVAB test and was promised a career in military mapping, the thought of push ups, running in boots and the cold war kept me from enlisting.

Before high school graduation in the spring of 1988, I was "accepted" into ITT in their Architectural Engineering program. Wow, they must accept everyone considering my grades - well they did as long as you can write a check. So I took out a loan for, if memory serves, $22,000 ($44,700 in 2016 money) for tuition. This was for two years of school, four hours a day, five days a week, four quarters per year. The tuition didn't cover books. There were only 2-3 books needed every quarter, typically one math book and a relevant book or two on subjects like construction methods, materials, concrete, steel, etc. I don't recall the books being that expensive.

You could choose your class schedule, either 8am-12, 1pm-5 or 6pm-10pm and you would stick with that for the entirety of your term. I chose 8am-12 because that would give me the opportunity work in the afternoon and evenings on a regular schedule and get to class early and start drafting every day. The consistent schedule was great. It's tough dealing with employees who are in college today and their schedules that completely change seemingly every month. The four hour breakdown was like this: 2 hours of "lab" meaning you were on the drafting board working on your quarterly project, 1 hour of math, and one hour of another class that changed every quarter. Honestly I don't remember those classes very well but I think they were theory, history (architectural), materials of construction and a rudimentary English or public speaking class here or there. Of the classes, I got A's or B's in all of them except physics where I ended up with a C. The classes weren't easy for me, but it seemed like a switch turned on after high school because since I was paying for my education, I really should try to learn something. I attribute that as the reason I went from a C-D student in high school to an A-B student at ITT, not that the classes were easier.

Odd side note: In high school I didn't apply myself in classes that weren't drafting related until I was a Senior. In 10th grade, I was about to flunk out of algebra and would have if I didn't get an A on the final exam. I studied really fucking hard, got the A, passed the class and then got accused of cheating. I could have gotten good grades in high school, I just didn't care. When I started paying for classes, I started to care.

The lab portion of our class was for working on our quarterly project as I mentioned before. The projects ranged from designing a couple of houses, a condo development, a church, a trucking facility and others. We would have to provide floor plans, elevations, sections, details, roof, foundation and site plans. For some projects we had to calculate steel beam loads and sizes (the truck dock project) or timber load and sizes (the church project). That's where the math class came into play learning how to size materials and figure out concrete footings. There was never enough time to get the projects done in only two hours a day. Most of us had drafting boards at home and routinely pulled all-nighters during the final couple of weeks each quarter. That's when I learned to love coffee. The lab is where you learned to draw and design. Line weights needed to be correct, text heights had to be correct, dimensioning had to be right and you had to design something that was appropriate. You also needed to defend your design.

Math was not easy - for me. It ranged from algebra to geometry to physics along with relevant engineering math of beam and foundation sizing. There was a math class in every quarter.

The job placement department had a big role in the school. When I started at ITT, they had a list of places where they would send students to find part time work. After a year in class, they had another list of companies in your chosen field looking for students. I thought they worked well at getting students jobs. My first relevant job was working for a local civil engineering firm, drafting Wal-Mart parking lots and new road construction projects by hand - ink on velum. That first relevant job was for $5 an hour, the equivalent of $9.60 in today's money. My non relevant job at the time was paying $3.35 an hour. A couple of times per year, each student would have a meeting with the placement director discussing your current job or trying to find a new one. These meetings actually weighed into your grades. Job placement was the main reason that people went to ITT back 20-30 years ago. I've no idea if that changed over time.

I say no. I felt the fees I paid were appropriate for the training and job placement. It would have been incredibly hard to get a drafting job without experience, and it still is. ITT provided training and opened a door I couldn't have myself. Do note that if my writing is any indication, they did not provide much in the way of classes with an emphasis on grammar. Or punctuation. Or literacy itself.

Regardless of their current situation, I wanted to present my side of things as a 1990 graduate since I haven't seen many articles or blogs that put any sort of positive spin on the school.

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