Not if you’re getting your education from vocational schools, according to a new study recently released from the US Government Accounting Office.  Having received a number of complaints, the Feds investigated a number of private vocational schools, often referred to as “career colleges,” for making false claims and using deceptive recruiting practices.
Generally, the claims brought against these programs allege that they:

  • Are not State licensed educational facilities.
  • Do not follow curricula approved by industry-specific specialists, or the State Education departments of where they operate.
  • Do not provide the full and appropriate training required for students to achieve the success claimed during their recruitment.
  • Deceive students about the usability of their training.
  • Deceive students about the availability of legitimate job opportunities.
  • Pressure applicants to commit to vague or misrepresented facts about financial liabilities, loans, fees, payment options and total costs.
  • Encouraged applicants to lie on financial aid forms.

Federal investigators working undercover went to a number of schools posing as applicants and discovered that false claims and deceptive practices are not uncommon.  They also discovered that the actual costs of acquiring associate degrees and certificates from these programs cost substantially more than the costs of similar training from legitimate public post-secondary education facilities.
Typically, these programs are run by large for-profit corporations with few, if any, ties to the industries they are preparing their enrollees for.  Their primary focus is on profit rather than quality education.
The investigation included 15 for-profit schools in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington D.C.  To ensure the fairness of their findings, the Feds also compared the recruitment practices and costs of non-profit schools and community colleges in the same geographic locations as those investigated.
Regardless of these programs’ focus – medical assisting, electrical engineering, HVAC, plumbing, massage therapy, cosmetology, contractor training and certification, automotive or motorcycle mechanics, etc – deceptive practices were commonplace.  Promises of career success from the short training programs, along with “financial assistance” and “guaranteed acceptance” claims entice those who are eager to enter those fields, those who may not have the academic background or finances, or may be lacking in other prerequisites that would be necessary were these careers pursued through traditional educational channels.
Obviously, if these assertions are true (and I’ve personally always felt this to be the case!), the ones who get hurt are those eager to get skills, start/change careers and better themselves.  I applaud the efforts of these students to make important changes in their lives, to pursue growth and new challenges, to improve themselves and their chances for personal success!!  And I feel badly for the thousands of those same students who are targeted by these unscrupulous opportunists.
By no means are all vocation-specific training programs guilty of fraud.  But the implications of the Feds’ investigations are that these practices are widespread.  It is obvious that for those who can gain admission to legitimate training courses at Community Colleges, and legitimate two and four year colleges and universities, better and more thorough training can be attained – and without the false promises.
A good education and good training can not be acquired overnight.  This investigation drives home the idea that students must thoroughly research their programs of study, and from where they want to get that education.  For-profit schools may have intensive, shorter career specific programs, but they do not provide the same level of quality education that comes from the patience and hard studying it takes to master any field of endeavor.  If you want to get your money’s worth from your educational dollars, you’ll do far better at your local community college or university.
If you’d like to read the full report from the US GAO (Government Accountability Office), here’s the link:
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