WASHINGTON, DC – Stephanie Stiefel, a veteran and resident of Canyon Country, recently testified before the U.S. Education Department’s Negotiated Regulatory Rulemaking Panel about her experience with the International Academy of Design and Technology. In her testimony to the panel, Stiefel shared her experiences with the school taking advantage of veterans like her to receive the maximum amount of funding possible.
Stiefel transferred to the International Academy of Design and Technology (IAFDT) after speaking to a counselor from the school at a career fair. She was promised small class sizes, one-on-one time with professors, and great career prospects upon graduation. In addition, Stiefel was told that all her credits would be transferable to other schools.
Once enrolling at IADT, however, Stiefel immediately felt that the school’s courses were simply a “check in the box.” Examples she gave included lack of training in advanced softwares needed to complete coursework, being given minimal instruction in class, and all students receiving passing grades, regardless of the quality of their work.
“The counselors made the program at IADT sound so appealing because they said graduating from IADT would provide a promising, lucrative career in big name design firms,” said Stiefel. “They also told me that they help their students get jobs. After graduation, I moved from Tampa to Los Angeles, and I called IADT’s career services office to get career assistance, but was told that since I did not live near the school they would not help me.”
In Los Angeles, Stiefel applied to every Interior Design related job she came across, at both big and small firms. She rarely received a call back, and any interviews she received were for receptionist or assistant work – jobs she could have gotten with a high school diploma, and without paying for her degree from IADT.
“All of these jobs paid minimum wage,” she said. “I certainly was not able to get one of the jobs making over $60,000 a year that IADT made me believe I would get coming right out of school.”
Furthermore, Stiefel learned that there were multiple requirements to work in the field that IADT had never informed her of, or attempted to help her complete. Since she left IADT, Stiefel has not been able to find a career in interior design. She took a job in a family business to help pay off student loans, and even joined the Army to get loan forgiveness. However, after joining the Army she learned that IADT was not properly accredited, and therefore she did not qualify for loan forgiveness. In addition, she tried to transfer her general education classes from IADT to a nursing program, and was told that her coursework from IADT was not transferable, despite what IADT told her. Stiefel is now currently employed by the Department of Homeland Security as an Explosives Detection Canine Handler.
For years, for-profit colleges like the International Academy of Design and Technology would aggressively target service members and veterans because of the 90/10 Loophole. The 90/10 Loophole was a loophole in federal law that the for-profit colleges used to manipulate to use GI Bill dollars and Defense Department Tuition Assistance to offset a cap on federal student aid the schools otherwise face. Congress has since closed the 90/10 Loophole that preyed on service members and veterans like Stiefel.
“I am here (today) to ask the Department of Education to protect students from ending up with a mountain of debt for low quality education and a degree that is worth nothing on the job market.” Stiefel said in closing her testimony.