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September 21, 2016

Former ITT students lined up at Norwood High School’s auditorium on Tuesday to meet with representatives from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, as well as representatives from the state Department of Higher Education. (Lydia Emmanouilidou/WGBH)

When ITT Technical Institute announced it would be closing all of its 137 locations nationwide -- including two in Massachusetts -- in early September, students were told they had two options: Apply for a closed school loan discharge, or transfer earned credits to another institution to continue their education.

To help the state’s nearly 500 former ITT students explore those options, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, in collaboration with the state Department of Higher Education, launched a series of workshops this week.

But some of the former ITT students attending Tuesday's workshop, including Justin Smith of Foxborough, said they weren't satisfied with the options available.

Smith, 27, completed his Associate's degree at ITT last year, and was pursuing his Bachelor's when the school shut down.

“I’m really left in a difficult situation,” said Smith, who took out over $30,000 in loans to fund his education at ITT.

During Tuesday’s event, Smith and his peers were told they’re not eligible to apply to have their loans discharged for an already-completed degree.

“It’s like I either take on extra debt that I don’t need or I just stick with an Associate’s degree for the rest of my life,” Smith said. 

Former ITT Tech students trickled in and out of Norwood High School's cafeteria on Tuesday to meet with representatives from local community and nonprofit colleges, including Massasoit Community College, MassBay Community College and Quincy College. (Lydia Emmanouilidou/WGBH)

For their uncompleted degrees, students have the option of transferring their credits to another school. But many regionally accredited schools have said they won't be able to accept those credits because ITT was accredited by a national organization. 

Representatives from the half a dozen community and nonprofit colleges present at Tuesday's workshop said there may also be financial drawbacks to transferring credits. 

“If the student decides to transfer credits to a subsequent institution, they won't be able to discharge the loans,” said Aundrea Kelley, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Quincy College.

Applying for loan forgiveness, says Kelley, may be a better option for some students. 

The second of the two workshops takes place Wednesday evening at Wilmington Middle School.

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