CHARLOTTE, NC - When a national technical school with campuses all around the country abruptly closed last week, they actually took your money.
Sound crazy? It’s not. The Defenders at our sister station in Charlotte looked into the claims and learned the school closing meant a huge waste of taxpayer money-- and worse-- a waste of time and money for veterans trying to start new lives as they leave the service.
Like so many veterans, James O’Neail joined the military right out of high school.
“The town where I come from-- not a lot of job opportunities, it’s so small.”
Financially he says college wasn’t really an option then. He’d been in the Army a year, he was just 19 when 9/11 happened. He says it re-ignited his patriotism, his pride.
“It did. It made it more like I’m glad I'm where I’m at, I actually get to do something.”
O’Neail even spent some time in Iraq as a helicopter mechanic-- surviving close calls.
“A couple of IEDs rockets hit on post. After awhile it just becomes the norm.”
After 14 years serving his country he was ready to get out and was anxious to finally go to college.
“I was excited; it was a new step for our family and a new step for my life,” he said.
He, like thousands of veterans across the country, enrolled in ITT, a technical school offering night classes and the IT degree he wanted.
The father of two used money from the GI bill to pay tuition.
“The GI bill is huge, It’s huge it’s a big weight off our chests for financed, I’m very thankful.”
He spent almost $60,000 of the government’s money on tuition at ITT and earned 90 credit hours. And, so did thousands of veterans across the country and in Charlotte.
“More than half the class were veterans.”
ITT would often go to Army bases recruiting students-- he says preying on veterans because they knew the government would be paying the bills.
“I think so because it was guaranteed money. The school was guaranteed to get $7,000 for tuition,” he said.
But the school just abruptly closed after years of questions about the quality of the education they offered and the way they did business.
O’Neail is now left with 90 credits-- almost done with school-- credits that aren’t good at most other schools and may not be good at any.
“I don’t know, I’m trying to move to a different school to see if they’ll take them. Right now I’m in wish land, I guess, trying to figure out what I can do to finish out.”
He’s also trying to figure out how he’ll pay to finish school since he used up most of the money from the GI bill.
“It put me really in a bind and I’m having to work through things to make sure I can take care of my family."
Copyright 2016 WFMY