[catagories: Washington Bankrutpcy attorney]
Locally here in Western Washington, BCTI or "Business Consumer Training Institute" was our worst "bad-boy" local for-profit school. The school (now closed) was criticized for signing up underqualified students for classes that they had little hope of completing. The school would then encourage the enrollee to incur thousands of dollars in student loans to pay for the schooling. (Note that the student loans were not dischargeable in bankruptcy) The student would be unable to complete the courses (many courses of which were of dubious benefit and would not transfer to a regular state or private college or university like Tacoma Community College, U of W Tacoma or even University of Puget Sound) but were then forever saddled with piles of student loan debt. BCTI would leave its students worse off than before, or so it was alleged.
Mary Beth Marklein of USA Today reported on September 29, 2010 that "As for-profit colleges rise, students question value". USA Today did not offer a link to this article on its website, so you will need to go to the library to obtain a re-print. However, anyone considering a for-profit school MUST read this article! I insist!
The article leads off with the story of Chelsi Miller, a Utah resident and former student at Everest College.
Ms. Miller achieved an "Associates Degree" from Everest College, incurring $30,000 in student loan debt.
Fortunately, Ms. Miller (a single mother from a farm town) was thereafter admitted to the University of Utah to pursue a pre-med program, but delight turned to horror. She was devastated, shocked and dismayed to learn that she had to start all over again with her courses because the Everest College degree credits was worthless at the University of Utah! The University of Utah would not accept the Everest College credits, and she claims that after spending $30,000 in student loan money at Everest, she was left with an Everest associates degree that did nothing to advance her education and career goals. She relates that Everest (owned by Corinthian Colleges corporation) mislead her into believing her Everest College credits would transfer well to the University of Utah. Ms. Miller is suing, along with others.
Ms. Marklein reports that the for-profit colleges seem to mis-represent the nature of their "accreditation". They are accredited by a seemingly "wishy washy" organization called the Accredition Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. But the University of Utah and other REAL two and four year schools like the University of Washington, Western Washington University and WSU are accredited by much more stringent organizations unrelated to the "wishy washy" for-profit college accreditation entities.
Here is a quote directly from Ms. Marklein’s article and it is very worth reading:
"…Everest College is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, one of the more than 70 organizationsrecognized by the Education Department. The problem:The organization is a national body. Historically, for-profit colleges have been accredited mostly by national groups, which traditionallyhave focused on short-termcollege programs in fields such as culinary arts, medical billing or business administration. In contrast, most non-profit, degree-granting public and private institutions are accredited by one of six regional bodies. (To complicate matters more, some professional associations accredit academic programs in fields such as pharmacy or nursing at both regionally and nationally accrdited institutions). ,…. most specialists in higher education agree that regional accreditation, which takes at least two years for a college to earn and must be renewed every 10 years, is considered the most rigorous and most prestigious."
This is tricky: just because a for-profit school DID obtain some measure of regional accreditation does not mean that other schools/universities are required to accept the transfer of credits from the for-profit college, and often the for-profit colleges seem to stretch the truth in promotional materials and presentations. Writes Ms. Marklein, "It’s up to institutions to decide whether to accept or deny transfer credits, but many use accreditation status as a (mere) guideline. The University of Utah, for example, requires students who want to transfer from nationally accredited schools such as Everest College to seek permissionfrom its faculty to get credit for courses already taken at a different institution."
"’Often those courses (from schools like Everest College) are found lacking in some way or another,’ says Suzane Wayment, associate director at the University of Utah. For example, she says, an algebra textbook used by a nationally accredited school may be for an introductory course, while the university (of Utah) requires that students complete a higher-level course." writes Ms. Marklein.
Ms. Marklein recounts the devil-may-care policy of many for profit colleges: "Many Rivera, spokesman for the Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, says ‘it is the student’s responsibility to confirm whether credits earned at the University of Phoenix will be accepted by another institution.’"
The Federal Government is concerned about Phoenix, Kaplan, Everest and others. The Federal Government Accountability Office suggests that "some nationally accredited colleges may be exploiting confusion about accreditation by omitting or glossing over details. The GAO report, for example, said a representative for the nationally accredited Kaplan College in Florida told an undercover government investigator who was pursuing an associate’s degree in criminal justice that the college was accredited by ‘the top accrediting agency – Harvard, the University of Florida they all use that accrediting agency.’ But that was not true."
Ms. Marklein relates that this past summer "..lawmakers grilled officials of regional and national accreditors during hearings about whether colleges found to engage in questionable practices – such as encouraging students to lie on their financial aid forms or pressuring students to sign legally binding contracts – should be allowed to keep their accreditation." Senator Michael Enzi, R-Wyoming, ranking member of the Senate’s education committee, as an active participant in the hearings.
Ms. Marklein relates the comments of the now devestated Chelsi Miller, the 26 year old single monther in Utah from the small farm town: "’I feel as if I had been sold a college experience from a used-car salesman….I received misleading guidance and answers that led me to sign my life away (with student loans) … I can’t speak to other colleges, but as far as Everest goes, they really have taken advantage of people that canot afford to be taken advantage of.’"
IDEAS FOR ACTION: Considering a return to school? If you hope to transfer credits from a for-profit school to some other school you must go to the school you hope to transfer to and obtain the specific written committment as to which precise "for-profit" school credits will be accorded full faith and credit as substituting for specific classes at your subsequent transferee school. Better yet, just avoid the "for profit" schools and try to get into a regionally accredited school and do all of your education at one school. Finally, my best advice is in this economy, you should do what you can to avoid large student loans at "for profit" schools, because since 1977, it has been exceedingly difficult to discharge student loans in any form of bankrutpcy filing.