Friday, July 30, 2010

What If?

The U.S. Department of Education is “cracking down” on for-profit schools; namely career colleges, saying essentially that for-profit schools are preying on people who can’t afford to go to college and who really should not be in college.
I don’t believe that college should be for only people who can “afford” it; there aren’t many trust fund babies around anymore. Certainly not enough to support the all of higher education.

Let’s play what-if for a moment. What if for-profit, career colleges where closed down?

Most cars these days are computerized; gone is the day of going to the auto parts store and buying a manual that tells you how to fix your car. If you want your car fixed, you take it to a mechanic. Universal Technical Institute (UTI) has thirteen campuses spanning from coast to coast (Universal Technical Institute, 2010). Those thirteen campuses train mechanics in everything from motorcycles to automobiles – both gas and diesel – to marine engines. Go ahead, close down UTI and suddenly your car is useless when it breaks down.

Forget your car or motorcycle or boat for a moment; let’s talk about food. When you make a reservation at a favorite restaurant for a special occasion, chances are that the executive chef is a graduate of a for-profit college. Le Cordon Bleu North America has seventeen physical campuses and one on-line campus (Le Cordon Bleu North America, 2010).

And if you get sick from eating at a place where the executive chef was not educated in an accredited for-profit career college, you’ll head to your doctor’s office where his/her medical assistant will take care of you. While there are some states that do not require certification for medical assistants (Colorado is one of them), the trend is to hire certified, if not degree-holding, medical assistants. A trend I fully agree with; do you want to be taken care of by someone who hasn’t been fully trained in phlebotomy or pharmacology if you’re seen for food poisoning (because, remember the chef who cooked your special meal wasn’t fully educated)? I can tell you from twenty years’ experience in the medical field – you do not want the physician drawing your blood. It’s likely that the last time he/she has drawn blood was in their third or fourth year of medical school.

Of course, getting food poisoning from a special dinner and having to go to the doctor is all moot if your car’s broken and there aren’t any mechanics to fix it. I suppose you could call an ambulance, but those are typically staffed by Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics who attended a for-profit career college.

I don’t think that the people who put this “crack down” together fully thought things through. Closing down for-profit schools will negatively impact the entire country; not just the schools themselves. The people who keep this country mobile, fed and healthy (and countless other professions) have most likely been educated at non-traditional, specialized schools.

My undergraduate degree in biology came from a traditional university. The only job I could land after I graduated, with my shiny new degree in hand, was building trophies at a trophy shop for $7.25 an hour. Eventually I was able to find a job in health care, but it wasn’t my degree that landed me the job. It was the experience I gained while working in the emergency department as an EMT that landed me the job. Career services at the university I attended consisted of a bulletin board with 3x5” cards tacked to it and a binder of employers who “may” hire a graduate.

Accreditation for a for-profit career college is extremely strict; the schools must prove that their graduates are employable after graduation and must keep track of the percentage of students placed in their field of study. Career services employees help with resume polishing, interview skills and job searches. Sure beats the “help” I got when I graduated.

I’m currently pursuing my Master’s degree. I chose a for-profit career college, which I know will provide me with the skills I need to be employable in my field.


Le Cordon Bleu North America. (2010). Cooking School Campus Locations. Retrieved July 30, 2010, from Le Cordon Bleu:

Universal Technical Institute. (2010). Universal Technical Institute Campus Locations. Retrieved July 30, 2010, from Universal Technical Institute:


Dual Mom said...

What's the argument for closing these schools down. I'd be interested to know.

Actually, the whole concept of a "for profit" school amazes me. I work for the largest College in our province. I work in management so I'm privy to the annual budgets. How the hell does an educational institute actually make money because I could get me a damn fine raise if I could figure that one out! haa.

Another question, is the regulations/accreditations different for profit/nonprofit institutions?

Mama Gayle said...

Well, I am currently thankful for a "for-profit" school, since I am attending one, LOL. I wasn't sure if I could even get into a regular school since I have a G.E.D. and never took that SAT/ACTS.

Anyway, we had a career day on Wednesday and I was surprised at the employers there that wanted fresh college students, LOL. So now I am HOPEFUL that I can land a good job after obtaining a bachelor degree....

I do however think that it is VERY expensive these days for an education of any kind, and instead of shutting down the schools they (the govt.) should make more help available for us people trying to better ourselves that can in no way really afford to be there:)

GunDiva said...

DM - the rationale is that the default rate on student loans is too high. Well that's true for every loan out there, not just student loans. Having been through accreditation twice, I am of the belief that accreditation for for-profit schools is much more stringent than for non-profits. We have to prove that our instructors not only have a degree, but have worked in the field they're teaching in. We have to prove our employment placement rates; our course completion rates; and whether or not we're natural blondes (okay, it's not quite that close an inspection, but it's not far off either). There is no such thing as tenure with for-profit colleges like there is for traditional ones.

Momma Gayle - the reason there were so many employers is because they know that graduates will be able to hit the ground running. That's the beauty of career colleges - we teach what's important for the career, not fluff.

K. Erickson said...

Whukd ahn phahnecks wurkd fer meee.....

Melanie said...

Diva, don't forget that these "for-profit" colleges are usually the ones that cater to people who also work, more so than traditional colleges thats for sure. Most of these people with trade certificates or Vocational degrees got them while working another job, usually full time, and probably while also raising some chillins'. I should know...I are one. Traditional colleges, especially brick & mortar ones since so many people are doing online, expect you to rearrange your life and/or lifestyle to get that education, while these smaller "trade" schools rearrange your education to make it fit your life. A+ in my book!

GunDiva said...

There were so many ways I could have gone with this post. I know that we go out of our way to make school as convenient as possible for our students. We have to be hard-asses about some things, but are always willing to work with students' life circumstances.

I thought, when I went to work for a career college, that the worst thing I'd ever fight was the notion that we were a "diploma mill". I tell students upfront that they're earning their degrees, not buying them.

Melanie said...

Oh, I know the stigma attached. I fought tooth and nail for my nursing diplomanand work shoulder to shoulder with degree holding nurses everyday. The one thing you have to remember is that most of the time people start there at a career college, but don't stop there. I know Doctors who started out as LPN's from a Career School. All some people need is a hand up and foot in the door, work ethic takes care of the rest. Stopping the career schools really would be huge mistake. What they really need to do is put more work into the Financial Aid system. That's where its needed.

Maggie said...

I'm currently attending my second "for profit" career college. I can't see the benefit in closing them down. Or "Clamping down" on them.

WHat a bunk.

brian said...

Wow...what do you have? Like, twenty different blogs? I can't even keep up with my ONE! LOL. Don't know how you do it...

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of alternatives to for-profit schools that are much cheaper. Much, much cheaper. The gov't doesn't want to take away the ability for people to go to similar schools and attend culinary and health care programs, they just want people to go to schools that don't exploit students for gain. If you bothered to look at the numbers, you would see that more students drop-out with lots of debt than graduate.

GunDiva said...

Anon - I would much rather them target the specific institutions who exploit students. Unfortunately the drop rate is across the board - for-profit and not-for-profit.