You may see the commercials late at night, or even during an afternoon talk show. Targeted toward a certain demographic, these career colleges pitch you a dream: you can make good money doing what you love.
It was May 2006. I worried that no good college would want me, a high school drop out with a GED. Granted, I'm intelligent. But it seemed to me colleges really cared about that high school diploma. And most do. But I underestimated myself. Now I owe 4,000 dollars to a college that was barely a school at all.
I went to a Career Education Corporation-owned school. It's one of the largest owners of for-profit colleges. And its revenue is entirely dependant on the loans that students take out in order to attend their schools. It's also worth mentioning that CEC is being investigated by several different organizations, including the Department of Justice and the United States Postal Service.
However, I didn't know any of that when I e-mailed a local campus of one of their schools after seeing their commercial. I was told I could shop for a living, and make good money doing it. I loved to shop, so it seemed perfect. It also felt like my only option. I know I should have done more research, but at that time I was eager to just get the whole college thing over with.
Within five minutes, an admissions representative called me back. I thought, well this is good, they're attentive. Now I see that the admissions rep's role was nothing more than that of a salesperson's. She tried to sell me on this school, and she did. She even sold my mother on it. She told us it was accredited, it was a respected institution. Even when she told me it would cost nearly 80,000 dollars to attend for 3 years, I wasn't deterred. Because she also told me about how easy it was to get financial aid. After paying 50 dollars on the spot to 'apply', of course.
The application process consisted of the admissions rep going 'upstairs to talk to the president of the school'. When she came back down, she dramatically announced that I had been personally accepted by him. That's a pretty expensive elevator ride and five minute discussion, isn't it?
Of all seven classes I took there, one teacher was professional. Sure, they all had degrees, but they acted more like they wanted to be friends with the students than they wanted to teach. One teacher allowed students to swear, skateboard in class, and play loud rap music on her speakers. Another teacher professed not caring about the students' lives or problems, as long as they got his work done.
Then I found out about the controversy. Students and organizations unhappy with the CEC. CBS news articles about alumni going bankrupt because companies saw one look at the schools on their resumes and never called them back. One school promises 98% job placement. They promised jobs that paid 30,000 dollar starting positions.
I started getting this bad feeling, deep down. I knew this school wasn't going to get me where I needed to go. I didn't want to end up bankrupt.
I left after one semester. I've transferred since, and I'm happy with my new school choice. I'm not happy with the 4,000 dollars of debt, but I figure that's the price of learning a true lesson: always research, always be sure of your decisions. Never let anyone sell you a dream, because they are doing just that: selling. Their only concern is to make a profit, and in this multi-billion dollar industry of career colleges, they are certainly doing just that.