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Do Your Homework Before Choosing For-Profit Career College

Do Your Homework Before Choosing For-Profit Career College

Get up to speed on career colleges.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel via Yellowbrix

October 29, 2010

But to critics, that lifeline may be more a handicap to some students at career colleges. They say the main motive at some schools is making a profit and that they mislead students with unrealistic promises through aggressive marketing.

CALL RIGHT NOW

During a recent episode of “Maury” on daytime talk television, half the commercials were for career colleges.

“I’m a medical assistant. I make more money than I ever imagined,” said a woman advertising Everest. “Get up and pick up the phone and make a better future for yourself.”

With the toll-free number on the screen, a man’s voice added: “If she can do it, you can do it. Pick up the phone and call right now and start on the road to a rewarding career and a better life.”

Everest officials did not respond to requests for an interview. The parent company, Corinthian, is one of the largest in the industry and is projecting $1.75 billion in revenues this year.

Check out career schools for fast-track, specialized degrees.

Everest’s Web site doesn’t list cost information, but an admissions representative told the Sun Sentinel that one program available at its Pompano Beach, Fla., campus — offering an associate’s degree in criminal justice — costs about $35,000. The school says that can lead to a job as a corrections officer, which at Florida’s Department of Corrections pays about $30,000 to $45,000 a year.

BAD CREDIT, NO PROBLEM

Career colleges make it easy for students to enroll with little or no money up front. Financial aid representatives help students line up loans. Even candidates with a bad credit history are not discouraged.

Among the frequently asked questions on the website for Florida Career College, which has campuses in Lauderdale Lakes and Pembroke Pines: “My credit is terrible! Can I still receive financial aid” The answer: Yes.

“People are desperate right now to improve their skills and marketability because jobs are so scarce,” said Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access & Success, a California-based nonprofit organization that studies student borrowing through its Project on Student Debt. “That adds up to a ripe marketing opportunity for for-profits: ‘Come over here. We’ll get you started right away, and boom, you’ll get a great job.’ For far too many, what it really means is you’ll take on a lot of debt that you won’t be able to pay back.”

Among graduating seniors in 2008, 96 percent of students at for-profit schools had loans compared with 72 percent or less of students at traditional universities, according to an analysis by the Project on Student Debt. They also came away owing the most: an average of $33,050, versus $27,650 for students at private nonprofit schools, and $20,200 for public university grads.

The Career College Association, a trade organization, contends the higher borrowing is a result of the lower-income students attending their schools. “They have more debt because they have fewer financial resources to begin with,” said spokesman Bob Cohen.


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