Beware of colleges that are better at check cashing than job training

07/06/2014 3:58 PM

07/07/2014 5:12 PM

On Monday, Everest College is expected to announce which of its more than 100 locations will close or be sold, including the fate of one in Kansas City.

Shock among students seemed to be the top reaction in news coverage when the possible closures were announced last week. And therein lies the overarching issue.

The problems of Everest are not new or unique. The allegations against it, which have been filed at the federal and state levels, are classic for troubled for-profit trade schools. Let’s hesitate to call them universities or colleges, as those terms connote standards that too often are not met by many of these operations.

Everest’s corporate owner, Corinthian Colleges Inc., has been accused of doctoring data on the jobs that people obtain post graduation, using the possibly tweaked statistics to lure more students, and falsifying attendance and the grades that people earn. Too many people still get suckered into institutions that are facing similar charges. Somehow, the Department of Education needs to do a better job at raising the “buyer beware” signs.

Corinthian reached an agreement with the government to receive $16 million in federal student aid funding to keeps its locations afloat. It will reportedly receive $35 million more, an attempt to keep students from being stranded mid-program.

And it is partially the downfall of public education that so many questionable training locations exist in the first place. Some are good quality, no doubt about that. They are filling a vacuum in the market, training people for jobs in technical skills such as dental assistant, auto mechanic, medical insurance billing and nursing. All are very necessary skills in this economy.

And yet, too often, people either don’t know about the similar, often cheaper programs at local community colleges or are scared off from pursing degrees there. They simply want a quick entry to the job market.

That’s understandable. But such students are prey for the shadiest of these operations.

Taxpayers have an interest in monitoring these institutions as much as any public college or university. In the worst-case scenario, students rack up massive debt from federally backed loans, the for-profit keeps the tuition as income, and the gullible student winds up saddled with the bills and no job.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/msanchezcolumn.

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