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Dispelling Some Myths About Proprietary Education

Dispelling Some Myths About Proprietary Education
For-profit education providers face a number of preconceived notions they must break through. Photo by Chris Huggins.

For-profit education has taken a beating in the press recently because of poor behavior by employees. My company, Kaplan Higher Education, got caught up in that snare as well. On hidden camera no less. It was a shame; and an embarrassment.

Those discretionary moments seemed to have been one more “feather in the cap” for the naysayers of proprietary education, Congress included. Unethical behavior happens in many companies, but when your company is out of the main stream and making lots of money, it becomes an easy target. Career colleges are a good investment for many students, so in order to further help clear the air of for-profit education, below are a few common myths dispelled.

  1. For-profit colleges care only about making money, not education

Wrong. While balancing profit with education takes finesse, for-profit colleges are highly regulated and extensively and routinely audited. Many accrediting bodies—from state agencies to local and national programs—audit these schools.

Moreover, teams of curriculum designers and program directors sit on advisory boards to ensure the training is meeting economic demands. In other words, there is a continuous process of evaluation to be sure curriculum material is relevant.

  1. Teaching quality is poor

Wrong. While teachers at career schools or colleges do not have to conduct research or get published (like those at traditional colleges), their credentials rank among the best. Furthermore, these colleges require that teachers not only have credentials but work experience as well in their discipline, and they usually require teaching experience on top of that.

Many colleagues of mine are trial lawyers, former and current law enforcement officers, medical and nursing assistants, therapists, information technologists, accountants, and entrepreneurs. All with degrees and decades of work experience.

Additionally, the teams of curriculum designers at these schools are made up of terminal degreed personnel that understand classroom dynamics and learning environments. So not only are our students receiving relevant, current material, they are getting that from seasoned, qualified professionals.

  1. For-profit schools enroll anybody and prey on people who cannot realistically afford school

Wrong. While it is easier to get into a career school, there are standards and qualifications that need to be met. There is an entrance exam with a minimum base score that has to be met and a thorough interview is conducted with an admissions representative. Other programs as well offer prospective students assurance.

For instance, at my school—Kaplan—students not only are advised financially to ensure they can afford school, they are offered a free course to ensure what they are “buying” is something they truly want. If at any time during that course they feel they do not fit with the school they can withdrawal without penalty of paying.

  1. Graduates of for-profit education are not prepared and cannot find the jobs to pay back student loans

Wrong. While proprietary schools are expensive, prospective students receive full disclosure on the education they are receiving and what they are paying for.

Moreover, students must meet minimum GPA standards or risk expulsion. And not only must they perform academically, they must meet professionalism standards in the way they dress, how they conduct themselves, and be responsible for their attendance and tardiness. If students do not go to class, they are dropped from the course.

Finally, the career services team is integrated in the local job community to ensure they are receiving qualified students and that the students are getting the training they need. As a matter of fact, this is a necessary force behind for-profit education. But to be sure, no education system guarantees employment of their graduates.

All types of training and education systems serve a niche market. Proprietary schools are no different. These career colleges serve the communities well and do a tremendous service, but these schools are not for everyone; nor is traditional college for everyone.  In the end, students need to make well-informed decisions based on truth and facts.

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