For-profit school scams: New Yorkers are the victims
By MAHOGANY LINEBARGER | 7/11/2013, 2:17 p.m. | Updated on 7/11/2013, 2:17 p.m.
You’ve seen the ads on the train or on the bus. Normally, there is a young man or woman with an encouraging smile on their face and some caption explaining that they got an education or learned a trade and are now earning enough money to take care of their bills and provide for their family; they have achieved all of this with the help of some for-profit school or career-training program.
For-profit school and training programs have been the target of much media and legal attention for a few years. The focus has been to educate people about the risks of enrolling in for-profit schools. With New York City being the home to more than 300 for-profit programs, various legal groups and the Board of Education have taken on the campaign to provide students with the information necessary to make an informed choice about their education.
For-profit schools and training programs have seen a drastic increase in enrollment since the turn of the decade. According to the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), enrollment has increased by more than 200 percent in the last decade. This has much to do with the increase in advertising. Aggressive advertising has helped to focus recruiting methods.
“These schools advertise to minority communities in New York City, especially because New York has such a large amount of what they call ‘unconventional’ students,” said Eileen Connor, a senior staff attorney with NYLAG.
The marketing strategy for for-profit schools is to focus their ads toward low-income, minority demographics. According to NYLAG, students of for-profit schools and programs are very likely to be minorities or foreign-born and be supporting a family. These groups of “unconventional” students are often looking for a kind of instant gratification. They have families to support and are looking for work, so rather than using more conventional methods such as earning a GED or enrolling in nonprofit schools, they turn to programs that promise fast career results.
After hearing a promotion for one of these programs on the radio, Victor Rodriguez, who currently works for a window company, attended a for-profit technical training program in November 2009. Rodriguez said that after he completed the program in December 2010, he received little to no help with finding a job. “They helped me get two interviews, but the interviews had nothing to do with the courses I had taken.”
Students who choose to enroll in for-profit schools also do so because of the shorter process of admissions. There are no standardized tests like the SATs or the ACTs and students are practically guaranteed placement as long as they can find funding. This stands as both an incentive and a defect of the system. Senior staff attorneys for NYLAG say that the process usually begins with a student speaking with an admission representative, who first takes the student’s information to begin the application process for federal loans.
“This is a red flag,” said Jennifer Magida, a senior staff attorney at NYLAG. Often, when students are considering for-profit schools, they are pressured into making a quick decision. Representatives can be aggressive; they stress to the student that money will not be a concern. Things like classes and fields of study are second thoughts.