For-Profit Career Colleges and Technical Schools: What You Need to Consider Before Enrollment
According to the Career College Association, two out of three Americans are considering returning to school for further education or to learn a new career. With the proliferation of career colleges in the United States, the prospective student needs to be educated about them before enrolling. Though there are many graduates of for-profit schools out there happily working in their chosen careers, doing a little homework before choosing a school can mean the difference between success and failure.
Career colleges, or proprietary schools are called for-profit colleges. While there is nothing wrong with a school operating for profit, there are several issues to consider before making a choice of which one to attend. Though many schools are quite obviously career colleges, some have been around long enough in communities that the citizens do not even realize, or think, about how the college operates.
This is the case for some folks in Dayton, Ohio, in regards to Miami-Jacobs Career College. Unlike some schools -- for instance, cosmetology schools -- this one has been around so long, many lump it in with Wright State University and Sinclair Community College, both public colleges, like it is the local Harvard. The companies that own these schools know it and use the longevity of the school’s history to their advantage.
Harvard It's Not!
An Old and Trusted School or Is It?
Do not take an old and trusted reputation for granted. For instance, the previously mentioned Miami-Jacobs Career College in Dayton, Ohio was “founded” in 1860. Since the early 1900’s, it has been known in the community as Miami- Jacobs Business College. For about 100 years, it was actually owned by the same family, in the same location, giving it a continuity in the community, along with a good reputation for specialized business training.
Today, Miami-Jacobs is still privately owned, but instead of the family business of yore, it is now owned by Gryphon Investors, a $700 million private equity group, and operated through Delta Career Education Corporation. Delta is the education division of Gryphon Investors and at last count, had 30 schools under their umbrella. Though the name has stayed the same there is little that students of bygone eras would recognize -- besides the name -- at the leased location the school is currently occupying in downtown Dayton, Ohio
Who Owns These Money-Makers?
Buying up old schools that have been mainstays in the community, like Miami-Jacobs, is a common practice for some of these major education corporations. According to Gryphon Investors website, they operate under “strong regional brand names, some with over 100+ years of history.” When they do acquire an old and well established name, they quickly branch out. Miami-Jacobs has added 5 new locations in as many years.
The same is true for Miller-Mott Technical Schools, another brand owned by Delta Educational Systems and Gryphon Investors. The original school was founded in 1916 by Judge Leon Mott in Wilminington, North Carolina and now has nine locations in several states.
For-profit colleges are money makers. According to the Department of Education, at Miami-Jacobs, 100% of the students receive federal loans, 91% of the students receive federal grants and 81% receive state grants. That is a lot of tax dollars going into a private for-profit corporation with little oversight at the state or federal level. In fact, the 291 career colleges registered in the state of Ohio grossed just under $499 million dollars in 2008, according to the Ohio Board of Career Colleges 2008 annual report.
Ducking The Hard Pitch
A prospective student who inquires at a for-profit college is probably going to get a hard-sell. At Miami-Jacobs, according to the admissions representative job description -- available to the public at their website -- they are to try to “entice” the student into joining and to “build excitement” during the tour of the school. While a certain career college might be the best choice for you, you do not want to choose a school based on the admission rep’s sales skills, so keep that in mind.
The problem is that admission representatives are most likely trained to overcome objections, just like any good sales person. They are trained in ways to present information to make it sound more advantageous to the student. If you have been swayed by the sales pitch, you may not be listening too closely when they go over the final facts.
For instance at Miami-Jacobs, some students who have joined have indicated that they were not fully aware of some of the statistics before signing on the dotted line. This particular career college only has a 57% retention rate, meaning that 43% of first year students do not come back for the second year. Even worse, the school only has a 33% graduation rate, wasting the time of the student, taxpayer dollars and leaving the student in debt with federal student loans without an education to pay for them. No wonder the default rate there is over three times the national average at 21.9%.
Is It A Teacher or A Displaced Worker?
Teaching requirements may not be as stringent as some colleges and universities. For instance, at Sinclair Community College, a local public college, a part time Respiratory Care instructor is required to have a master’s degree. At Miami-Jacobs Career College, while the instructor must have an RRT (an advanced respiratory care designation), only a two year Associates degree is required, but a “Bachelor’s degree is preferred.”
One of the biggest downfalls of the for-profit school is the credit transferability. Due to the specialized nature of the training, these credits just do not usually transfer. If a student decides that they are unhappy with the program, well, it is just time wasted and tax dollars spent. If the student enrolls in a like program at a different school, he will, in most cases, have to start over, no matter how much time he has logged at the other school
Who Thinks of Legal Issues?
Legal issues with the school is probably the last thing on a prospective student’s mind. Unfortunately, legal issues do crop up. For that reason, many of these for-profit schools also include a clause in the enrollment agreement that the student must go through arbitration instead of the court system if there are legal issues. Arbitration cases generate little to no publicity, leaving the reputation of the school intact and out of the newspapers.
Corinthian Colleges, one of the biggest for-profit education corporations in the country is continually being sued. My owndaughter attended a Corinthian College called Florida Metropolitan University (FMU) in Pinellas County, Florida. That school was sued over allegations of misinformation by admissions reps that credits would transfer easily to other regional schools. Of course, it was handled by arbitration and dismissed. The name was quickly changed to Everest University.
Still, my daughter completed the 720 hour massage therapy program at FMU and was awarded a certificate. The reason she is enrolled in the massage therapy program at Miami-Jacobs in Dayton, Ohio is that Ohio requires at least a 750 hour program, leaving her 30 hours short of an Ohio license. The credits do not transfer. If the career field of your choice is one that is licensed by the state, it pays to research requirements in other states, in the event that you may relocate at some future point and time. It cost her over $6,000 in federal loans (the federal government a like amount in grants) and a wasted year of school.
Seven students at Miami-Jacobs are still going through their arbitration process, according to their attorney, Jane Peach, after filing suit in early April of 2008. After the initial publicity, the case has languished with no publicity from the local media at all. The students have accused the school of not being properly accredited in the Surgical Tech program. Things like this can derail your education and leave you disillusioned about any further education at all.
Do Your Homework!
Not all for-profit schools are brushed with the same tarnish. Unlike Miami-Jacobs, another local for-profit college, RETS Tech Center, that has been around for years, admits who owns them and when they were purchased. While having a similar retention rate of 62%, RETS College reports a 97% graduation rate for those who return. In addition, the federal loan default rate is only 7.9%. .
This type of information and more about any college or university is available at College Navigator, a web page provided by the Department of Education. It is a good place to start researching any colleges you might be interested in. Remember, if you want to attend a career college, doing your homework before enrollment is your best bet for success.