For-Profit Colleges Cheat Students and Get Away With It

Diana Medina's prospects seemed bright. She graduated with honors from Pahokee High School in Palm Beach County and earned a graduate degree in health science education from the University of Florida. But then, after she put her career on hold to raise a child, she entered the tricky world of for-profit education.

In November 2009, looking for a leg up in getting hired, she searched Google for a place that could give her advanced training with flexible hours. She found MedVance, a trade school that teaches health-care skills such as x-ray technology and medical billing. And that's where her education hit the skids.

Critics say the school, which is based in Baltimore and has Florida campuses from Port St. Lucie to Miami, deceptively lured students into expensive educational programs that ultimately proved worthless.

An admissions rep, who turned out to be little more than a pushy salesperson, steered Medina toward the Medical Office Administration program even though she said she wanted to study pharmacy. It cost around $12,000. The rep told her she'd be able to get a starting salary of $50,000 or more after graduating.

"I was duped," Medina says. "The program was not worth $12,000. The teachers were not really teaching. It's like the students were running the classroom. It wasn't a learning environment."

After a two-year investigation, the Florida Office of the Attorney General recently agreed not to pursue charges against MedVance if the firm provided $600,000 in scholarships and free retraining to scores of students. Similar probes into other for-profit institutions of higher learning — Kaplan University, Everest Institute, the University of Phoenix, and Argosy University — are still open, with no sign of a resolution. If the MedVance settlement is a sign of what's to come for those investigations, the state's for-profit schools will get off with the deal of the century.

Across the country and in Florida, for-profit schools have been around for decades. Unlike traditional universities, they aren't responsible to the state board of regents or nonprofit overseers. They are inspected, but in some cases have as much in common with a huge car lot as with Harvard University.

One key to the business is student aid. To these schools, every American is worth around $117,000. That's the total amount each person is eligible for in government financial aid. Under federal regulations, for-profit schools are required to collect 10 percent of all tuition in cash; the rest can be financial aid. The industry makes roughly $30 billion a year off American taxpayers under this arrangement.

In order to get in on the gravy train, for-profit schools need accreditation only from some supposedly neutral body. But Congress neglected to indicate who should do that accrediting, resulting in a system loaded with charlatans. Some agencies are little more than rubber-stamp factories.

"It never occurred to [Congress] that [accreditation] would get corrupted," says Barmak Nassirian, a former official with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. "This is basically a parasitic industry that is preying upon not just some of the most vulnerable members of our society, but [those] who are actually attempting to better themselves."

For-profit schools have been the target of increasing scrutiny, if little corrective action. In August 2010, an official from the U.S. Government Accountability Office testified before Congress about investigations into 15 schools. The agency had sent in undercover applicants and reviewed finances. The results were maddening.

"Admissions or financial aid representatives at all 15 for-profit colleges provided our undercover applicants with deceptive or otherwise questionable statements," GAO Managing Director Gregory Kutz testified. "These... included information about the colleges' accreditation, graduation rates, and its students' prospective employment and salary qualifications."

The agency also discovered that for-profit institutions had greatly inflated costs. "We found that tuition in 14 out of 15 cases, regardless of degree, was more expensive at the for-profit college than at the closest public colleges," Kutz testified.

A couple of months later, then-Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced his office would launch its own investigation. Plenty of people came forward to tell their stories.

"Hypocritical and disgusting" is the way Mark Stegall, a senior admissions advisor for a Kaplan University branch in Orlando, described his work environment, according to thousands of pages of records from the investigation obtained by New Times. Supervisors told reps to pick a famous university in the student's home state and claim Kaplan's accreditation was as good or better. Stegall would tell students they couldn't even discuss money until they committed to enrolling, and then would break down a $63,000 tuition into cost per credit hour so that it didn't sound so high. "We would go into stories... about how it would change your life, and where would you be living if you had that kind of money... That was the disgusting part of the job," Stegall said. Poor students were especially good targets.

"If [the applicants] were already well-off, I may as well end the call, [because] they wouldn't qualify for financial aid, and as soon as they saw how much it was going to cost them for an online degree, they would be smart enough not to do it," Stegall said.

According to other statements from the Attorney General's record, after the MedVance admissions "interview," students were sent to a financial aid department. Lying was encouraged. One student recalled an advisor named Kiki telling her to list three extra family members as financial dependents on her federal loan application so she could qualify for more money.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
11 comments
jmaximus9
jmaximus9

The problem could be ended today if financial assistance was limited to actual schools instead of these scam diploma mills. The dept of ed could assemble the list in a day or two at the most. Problem solved. 

jmaximus9
jmaximus9

Mitt Romney's son is a major investor in Full Sail, the biggest rip-off school around.

scott981
scott981

As one of the lawyers who represents students in the AAA against Medvance, we are happy that the AAA refuses to enforce these unfair agreements with their former students.  Anyone who needs assistance with this arbitration process should feel free to contact us at www.behrenlaw.com.

AP75
AP75

     Thank you to the Miami New Times for finally bringing a situation that has affected many to light.   Hopefully this is only the beginning of stories to come for there is one school in particular that was overlooked in the article. This (University) institution would be under the conglomerate of The Education Management Corporation or EDMC, namely, The Art Institute's Miami International University of Art and Design. 

      Lets just say that I am in agreement with Sokko 69, and would be willing to share this story with the New Times.    This injustice is widespread and although many feel strong-armed, there are some students,former professors and administrators that have facts, and a paper trail of correspondence to show.    Once again,  I commend the Miami New Times for taking the time to compose an article that can penetrate the local population.    Keep in mind that there was a segment on MSNBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams that was aired the middle of last month regarding the EDMC.  As I look for the link on my iPhone to place it in this comment space, there is a pop up from Ai propaganda regarding enrolling into their program.

 

May this not be the last...  

 

 http://rockcenter.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/07/19/12842350-investigation-reveals-claims-of-unmanageable-debt-by-for-profit-college-students?lite

sokko69
sokko69

Im a graduat of Miami international Unvesity... i was not pleased at all with the end result of the so called education. Teachers qualty varied, being that the do have a handful of teachers that really are good and you actually learn with them. Yet there were times that you would see students that had graduated the quarter before, back at the university teaching. That is a far cry from the advertisement that they had where as they would say" learn from professionals from the industry..

furthermore , discovering that there was a $30,000.00 loan that i had not asked for, or signed for ...was now in collections... salllie mea, and the department of education stated tat the could nothing about it.  so i started with the Better Business Bearue.... recieved one response in reference to several complaints....the main one was how can the university get an extra $30000.00 without signetures and paperwork from the person that its for... the BBB then informed me that the university did not want to comment nor reply..then suggested that i take the matter further by way of the legal system.. 

run.randrand
run.randrand

P.T. BARNUM ONCE SAID--" A SUCKER IS BORN EVERY MINUTE"!"---LET THE WILLING BE AWARE----

thaphenom
thaphenom

The solution to a problem created by government is...more government? Does not compute.

drakemallard
drakemallard topcommenter

the College degree scam The Education Complex has created this stigma that somehow you are lacking if you don't have a college degree. If everyone has a college degree, then by definition that degree is devalued and not worth the paper it is written on. This is evident by the fact the many organizations are requiring a master degree to be eligible for management. I find this offensive. It is obviously in their own self interest to perpetuate this myth.Now that everyone believes this myth, they tell you that if you take out a $50,000 easy government loan and be a slave to the payments for the rest of your life you will have a good job and be fulfilled.Right, while you end up living with your parents because you can't find a job. If you were poor you are now poor and in debt up to your neck. Many will be in debt for most of their lives with no value from their worthless degree a college degree does not guarantee a job

StefanKamph
StefanKamph

 @run.randrand One might argue that the circus is both cheaper and more educational than some of these schools.

jmaximus9
jmaximus9

 @thaphenom No the problem was caused by a lack of gov oversight and republicans more interested in ripping off the public than actually doing their job. 

run.randrand
run.randrand

 @StefanKamph HAVING GONE TO STETSON UNIVERSITY-OF COURSE, I WOULD RELISH COMMUNITY EDUCATION HERE AT A PREMIUM PRICE FOR ALL WHO WANT STUDIES-BUT LET ME MAKE IT VERY CLEAR-THOSE WHO PERPETUATE FRAUDS ON THE PEOPLE---SHOULD BE HUNG! I KID THEE NOT!!

 
Miami Concert Tickets
Loading...