Former PTC executives speak out, want people to know college could have been saved

OAKDALE, Pa. — A local technical college and pillar for students and employees in the region is closing its doors abruptly amid investigations and growing questions about what went so wrong, so fast. Now, former executives are speaking out.

>> Majority of faculty, staff let go weeks before PTC’s announced closure

Pittsburgh Technical College announced in late June that it would close on August 9, but the college did an about-face. Roughly two and a half weeks later, campus housing shut down, leaving students with no place to live, and the majority of faculty/staff was laid off. Their benefits were canceled within hours.

11 Investigates has been following the troubles at PTC for nearly a year. Now, the college’s former President, Greg DeFeo and the former Chief Financial Officer, Terry Farrell are speaking out. The two leaders have three and a half decades of experience combined at PTC. They say they want the truth to be known - they say PTC could have been saved and students and employees could have been spared.

>> PTC students say they were blindsided, feel deceived by technical college’s closure

“Where was the oversight, where was the governance?” Farrell said. “We were really, really set for a bright future.”

“It’s hard to comprehend,” DeFeo added. “If I went back to 2018 when I left, it was inconceivable that PTC would be in this position today. It’s completely inconceivable.”

Both former executives say they feel ill about the fate of Pittsburgh Technical College and the circumstances leading to its closure.

“It’s like losing a kid,” Farrell said. “You put all this effort into something that’s good for families, kids, the region. It’s sickening.”

“You had a phenomenal, incredibly sound institution,” DeFeo added. “Then you had all these warning signs.”

Among those warning signs, a unanimous vote of no confidence in the college’s President/CEO, Dr. Alicia Harvey-Smith and an internal investigation that found potential financial misconduct.

“I kept thinking, someone sees this, right,” DeFeo said. “Someone steps in. Something has to change.”

Then, all but two members of the Board resigned. Over the next several months, the college’s accreditor put PTC on probation, the U.S. Dept. of Education said PTC violated policies, and the PA Attorney General’s Office opened its own investigation.

Just days before the closure of PTC was announced, the college continued to tell students and staff there were no plans to close.

“To me, my head just explodes,” DeFeo added. “There were multiple times the path could have changed. Multiple opportunities for the board to take action.”

Over four years, PTC hemorrhaged $40 million.

“I couldn’t have done it if you tried,” DeFeo said.

“This is all happening when technical education is on the rise,” Farrell added.

DeFeo and Farrell say the board approved budgets that secured the closure of PTC.

11 Investigates learned in the last year, PTC paid more than six figures for an internal investigation that found the current President and CEO committed misconduct.

The college also footed the more than $200,000 bill for a different law firm to rebut those findings.

Then there’s the nearly $300-thousand PTC paid to a PR firm to handle their communications.

There was also an ad paid for by PTC, promoting Dr. Alicia Harvey-Smith. It was over $1,800 and was published one month to the day before PTC announced its closure.

“I put the blame at the foot of the board of trustees,” DeFeo added.

The college’s President and CEO and Board of Trustees maintain they did everything in their power to keep PTC open. Dr. Alicia Harvey-Smith also cited declining enrollment, market pressures and coordinated attacks.

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