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For-Profit Career Colleges and Technical Schools: What You Need to Consider Before Enrollment

Photo by Kevin Marsh

Photo by Kevin Marsh

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!

Photo by J. Gresham

Photo by J. Gresham

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

Photo by Tracy O

Photo by Tracy O

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%.

Photo by no_name_face

Photo by no_name_face

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.”

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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

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.

Photo by Svadilfari

Photo by Svadilfari

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.


carol45 on February 22, 2012:

I found this lawsuit against Miller Motte Technical College while googling the school, the lawsuit was won by the Plaintiff against Miller Motte,

Connie Smith (author) from Tampa Bay, Florida on March 22, 2011:

So happy that you found a job working for a good employer. While you are correct that some students at Miami-Jacobs -- and every other school in the country -- didn't apply themselves, which is why they had problems, there are many problems with the for-profit college industry, starting right at Miami-Jacobs. This article nor the students made the school lose not just one, but two programs this past year due to a loss of approval or accreditation. Both the Practical Nursing program AND the Respiratory Therapy program lost the licensing accreditation they needed to operate. This is because the PROGRAMS were sub-par, not the students. If in doubt, visit the Ohio Board of Nursing's website and click on Education. Scroll down to see that Miami-Jacobs is prominently listed and click there to read their inspection report.

In addition, the 7 Surgical Technology students finally WON their long drawn out arbitration case, not because the school gave in, but because it was determined that the school was at fault.

Not every student at every school, even bad ones, have problems. Again, I will give this analogy: If Sally and Susie both buy cars at Toyota and Sally's brakes are bad, it doesn't mean that Susie's are. On the same token, just because Susie's brakes are fine, it doesn't mean that Sally's are. In other words, just because you had a good experience and received the education you paid for doesn't mean other students did, especially in other programs. You chose a program that is a certificate program, not needing a license to work in the field, though there are certifications, I believe, for medical assistants. Medical assisting is a field where there is a lot of positions available, but none are really high paying and the starting salary is definitely not in line with the exorbitant tuition charged for the education. I know all this because my own daughter just finished a medical assistant program in Florida.

I write these articles because Miami-Jacobs, all other Delta schools and every for-profit college in the US needs MORE regulation and oversight. This industry is a cash cow and that is why Miami-Jacobs is owned by a private equity group. It is not about education, it is about PROFIT.

Elysapeth on March 21, 2011:

I for one graduated from Miami Jacobs a few months ago as a medical assistant and found that by applying myself, asking question,s studying, and using the materials given to me, I was a success. I now work for one of the largest Reumatology and Immunology practices in the area and make a livable wage that has completely changed my life and my sons life. I have watched far to many people at that school waste time and not apply themselves, then turn around to gripe and moan to who ever would listen that they do not have the skills it takes to succeed claiming it is all Miami Jacobs fault. Start taking some responsibility for your own actions people!

JenifferPQ on February 17, 2010:

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Connie Smith (author) from Tampa Bay, Florida on September 23, 2009:

Hi Mark, Thanks for reading these articles. Though I plan to talk to you privately by email, these comments need to be addressed publicly also.

I don't know what you are taking, which branch, etc. My own daughter still attends Miami-Jacobs. I started writing these articles so that that students had some information to go by before making the decision, but none of this really means that M-J is not the school for you, either (or another for-profit school). I write these articles so that you have some facts at your disposal to make an INFORMED decision. Are you being swindled? Only if you spend $22,000 (or more) and come out with no degree, no education and a giant college loan. Also, if you need help from them in placement, financial aid, etc. that they promised and you do not get.

I believe there is a place for vocational education. As you can see, I am not crazy about M-J, but they let us down when we needed them and showed us that we were on our own when it counted the most. They almost ruined my daughter's future and had I not fixed it, my daughter would not be eligble to attend any school in this country on finanical aid. That is big stuff. I can also publish it without worry of libel because it is true and I can prove it.

In these articles, I bring up several major issues that are of concern for someone paying $12,000 a year for education. If you attend for a year, find out you can't attend for a while and have to drop out, the only way these credits can ever do you any good is to go back to Miami-Jacobs. You can't decide to go to another school that offers a similar program. FOR-PROFIT SCHOOL CREDITS ARE GENERALLY NOT TRANSFERABLE. They do not tell you this when you sign up (at least in a way you understand). The graduation rate is terrible at 33%, which wastes the students money and also the taxpayer's money as 100% of the students get some type of financial aid. The very worst thing is the lack of real regulation on the part of the Ohio Board of Career Colleges,the Ohio legislature, the Ohio Board of Regents and for all for-profit colleges, the federal Department of Education. Whether we are students or taxpayers, we are being ripped off by these schools and believe me, it is a big, big business. Underneath my picture at the top of this page is a line that says "contact connie smith" click on that and send me an email explaining your situation and we will talk further.

mark snow on September 23, 2009:

I recently enrolled at miami-jacobs and now hear all this negativity. How do I getthe real facts about my school and am I being swindled. Please help!

Connie Smith (author) from Tampa Bay, Florida on August 26, 2009:

Thanks for taking a look at it, dohn. What are you waiting for? This article is about career colleges, those vocational type schools that are for specific trades, like nursing, massage therapy, court reporting, that type of thing. It is big money these days. I just answered a letter written to me by a parent of a student who is having problems with the same school my daughter attends, Miami-Jacobs Career College, only a different branch. These schools need much more regulation than they are getting. Due to problems that we had at my daughter's school and me wanting to get the word out about the business practices at these places is what eventually led me to Hubpages. It is a subject that I am passionate about, as you can see. I thank you for your kind comments on my research. I have a lot of time invested in researching these issues. I want everyone who attends a for-profit school to know exactly what they are getting into before signing up. BTW, I sure hope that you are the next Toni Morrison, only the Laos version lol. I wish you the best. Also, I have considered taking creative writing classes myself for a degree. I hope to start at the beginning of next year.

dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on August 26, 2009:

You've certainly did your homework on this, Connie. I was thinking about going back to get my MFA in Creative Writing but will wait first. If I play my cards right, I'll become the next Toni Morrison who is a celebrity professor at Princeton who makes somewhere around $120,000 annually to work probably a total of 2 months out of the year! She does of course still makes a killing on her royalties.

Thank you for sharing this!

Connie Smith (author) from Tampa Bay, Florida on July 20, 2009:

I have barely skimmed the credit issue in higher education. You won't believe what a mess that it really is! It came as a surprise to me too!

The regulation of for-profit schools is something that I think strongly about. Many of these schools do not care about anything but the bottom line (though there are some good ones out there). To most students, a school is a school and they don't understand the difference until they have a problem and it is too late. By then, they are saddled with a bunch of debt and not way to pay for it. It is really criminal.

Jen's Solitude from Delaware on July 20, 2009:

Connie, I finally figured out what these for profit colleges remind me of. UPSELLING! They get you on the hook for one thing and then try to add on so that their profit is more. It comes as a complete surprise to me that some schools can just limit your ability to transfer credits, as if you never spent the time and money or effort to earn the credits.

Part two of your series is as informative and enlightening as part one.


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