Sun-Sentinel:Letters to the Editor: Checking school accreditation, licensing vital before enrolling


By Kathy Mizereck

We applaud the recent action of Attorney General Pam Bondi in filing suit against JLF University, accused of defrauding nursing students. The Sun Sentinel article failed to note that JLF is not licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education, the state regulatory body. In fact, commission staff referred JLF to the Attorney General's Office years ago.

This action mirrors our association's strong commitment to ethics and integrity among our sector. Florida career colleges enroll over 372,000 students and employ more than 85,000 staff in 900 licensed schools.

Our institutions graduate more than 100,000 job-ready students each year in fields as wide-ranging as information technology, cosmetology, health care and criminal justice. We support and encourage appropriate regulation of all educational sectors, and we urge prospective students to always validate the licensing and accreditation of schools they attend.

Kathy Mizereck, executive director, Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges, Tallahassee

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The Daily Caller: Political pressure tainted error-ridden GAO report

The Daily Caller

By Jonathan Strong

A smoking gun document about an error-ridden GAO report puts the murder weapon in a top Democratic senator’s hands.

GAO issued a slew of corrections in November to an undercover investigation into for-profit colleges requested by Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, who had unveiled the report at a hearing highly critical of the schools Aug. 4.

A internal GAO email obtained by The Daily Caller, a self-evaluation on what went wrong from a member of the team that wrote the report, suggests GAO was under the gun.

The email says GAO was put under “extreme short time frames” by Harkin to issue the report and “congressional staffers” demanded the inclusion of numerous details as it was being finalized.

“It certainly discredits the report, doesn’t it?” said Rep. Rob Andrews, New Jersey Democrat and long-time advocate for the for-profit schools, “The fact that they felt pressure to finish this on time is disquieting.”

[ For complete coverage of politics and policy, go to Yahoo! Politics ]

Sources close to the issue have long said Harkin’s influence on the report was key, but the official GAO report on what happened apparently whitewashed the issue. That report was not released to the public.

The report was “an anomaly due to its extreme short time frames,” the email says, adding that the deadline for the report was “not flexible.”

“The team’s unwillingness to say no to the additional insertion of details at the end of a job created some of our most obvious inaccuracies,” the email says, citing pressure internally at GAO for the inclusion of these “details” as well as from “stakeholders” and “congressional staffers.”

The report was crucial because it helped the push for strict new regulations at the Department of Education on the for-profit colleges. The most controversial part of the regulations, called gainful employment, is pending at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Suggestions of political influence on the error-ridden report are important because unlike budget scores by the Congressional Budget Office, which lawmakers have learned to game, GAO is known for being scrupulous and its reports are trusted on Capitol Hill.

The email maintains the “message” of the report is “accurate” and GAO spokesman Chuck Young said “we continue to stand by the report.”

Harkin, asked if he or his staff had any role in the errors in the GAO report said, “That was a GAO product, I didn’t have anything to do with it.” When informed The Daily Caller had reviewed an internal evaluation of what went wrong, he said, “I’ll have to go back and look at the time frames and stuff like that, I can’t remember that. I can’t remember the time frames. No, I don’t recall that being an issue at all.”
Justine Sessions, Harkin’s spokeswoman, said GAO agreed to present its report for the Aug. 4 hearing and “never requested an extension.”

The internal evaluation email says one specific “detail” demand in particular drove “most of our corrections.”
The detail was a summary of how many schools made deceptive claims about graduation rates and accreditation questions in the form of “X of 15 schools,” the email says.

“We then went back and stretched whatever we could find to come up with a number for the testimony. This was done in haste and is where most of our corrections came from,” the email says.

One source said Harkin’s office requested this summary, but Harkin spokeswoman Sessions denied that, saying, “HELP Committee staff gave GAO no instructions on how to conduct the investigation, and did not request that graduation rates or accreditation information be addressed.”

Summarizing how the demand for “details” caused errors in the report, the email says “to prevent this in the future, we must educate ourselves and external stakeholders that we cannot insert an infinite amount of new detail without adding additional time to the job.”

The email was written by an unknown team member to Gregory Kutz, the GAO official who testified about the report at Harkin’s Aug. 4 hearing. TheDC did not learn the author of the email but did confirm its authenticity.

In early March, GAO replaced Kutz with Rick Hillman, a career GAO employee, as head of the watchdog organization’s undercover sting operations.

The for-profit report, corrected Nov. 30, has been a major stain on GAO’s normally unimpeachable reputation.

For the report, GAO conducted a sting operation, posing as potential students for the for-profit schools. The investigation found numerous instances where admissions representatives made deceptive or misleading statements.

However, a red-line version of the report, highlighting all of the corrections, shows almost all of the significant errors made the for-profit schools look worse than what really happened.

Generally speaking, the corrections underscore how the undercover “students” pushed the for-profit college representatives towards dishonesty.

For instance, one for-profit representative estimated whether a undercover agent would be eligible for federal aid if he falsified his financial aid form. The corrected report says the representative made the estimate “upon request by the applicant.”

Sleazy, yes. But the fraud was the undercover agent’s idea in the first place.

Many of the corrections change the report from saying admissions representatives “told” the undercover agents they “should” do something to saying admissions representatives “indicated” the undercover agents “could” do something.

Andrews, the New Jersey Democrat who has been fighting the “gainful employment” regulation vigorously, said the errors were out of the ordinary for GAO.

“I have a lot of faith in the GAO,” he said. “They’re the most straight down the middle organization I’ve ever worked with. I’m not surprised that congressional staffers tried to pull them and push them in one direction or the other.

“I think that happens pretty frequently, frankly. But I think they’re pretty good at resisting it,” Andrews said.
But in this case, the internal evaluation says GAO’s “unwillingness to say no to the insertion of additional details” drove the “most obvious” errors.

“That’s pretty clear,” Andrews said, “it’s a rare exception to their objectivity.”

The Coalition for Educational Success, a trade association representing the for-profit schools, is suing the government over the report, saying it “blatantly misrepresented the actual exchanges between the GAO’s undercover investigators and the representatives of certain for-profit colleges.”

But Harkin argued, “None of the errors got to the essence of what they were finding — The fact that people were mislead” by representatives of the for-profit colleges.

“The essence is 25 percent of Pell Grants now go to for-profit colleges and only 10 percent of the students go there. Many of these for-profit schools are engaging in high-pressure tactics to get low income and poor students to go there. These students are dropping out at a huge rate with massive amounts of debt,” Harkin said.

The internal evaluation email says future GAO reports also face risk of errors.
“Given the short time frames of the job and the volume of undercover work performed, this engagement was at a higher risk from its initiation. This is not necessarily a systemic issue, but will likely be a problem we face again in the future,” the email says.

“Because staff were forced to do writeups of tests [undercover stings] on the road while preparing for the next test, some of the written summaries were not 100 percent accurate. That error was compounded by the limited time that Heather and I had to review documents. I take responsibility for not listening to all 60 hours of audio and checking those files with what was summarized in writeups,” the email says.

“In the end, the products produced were accurate on a macro level and accurately portrayed the results of our tests. However, if [GAO] wants to continue to produce products with numerous small details inserted late in the process, we will have to extend job timelines. If, as with the for-profit schools job, timeframes are not flexible, we have to understand that there will be some unavoidable risks,” the email says.

The email also says undercover agents should be instructed not to make “off color jokes” while the tape is rolling.

The Washington Post Report: U.S. college freshmen less prepared nowadays, presidents say

The Washington Post
By Valerie Strauss

A majority of more than 1,000 college and university presidents surveyed in a new poll said that public high school students are arriving at college less well prepared than students were a decade ago, and only 19 percent said that the U.S. system of higher education is the best in the world today.

The report, called “ Is College Worth It ?” and issued by the nonprofit Washington-based Pew Research Center, also said that three-quarters of American adults say college is too expensive for most Americans to afford, and 57 percent said the higher education system does not provide students good value for the cost. Still, 86 percent of college graduates agreed that attending college had proven to be a good personal investment, it said.

The report was based on two surveys, one conducted on the phone with 2,142 people who were 18 years and older and another conducted online, in association with the Chronicle of Higher Education, among presidents of 1,055 presidents of institutions of higher education. Those schools include two- and four-year private, public and for-profit.

Among the findings of the phone survey:
*Graduates of four-year colleges believe on average they earn $20,000 more a year than they would without the degree, while adults who don’t have one believe that they are earning $20,000 less than if they did. The U.S. Census Bureau in 2010 reported that the median gap in annual earnings between a college graduate and a high school graduate was $19,550.

*Though 94 percent of parents surveyed said they expect their child to attend college, most young adults can’t attend a four-year school because it is too costly.

*The public has mixed views of the mission of a college education. Forty-seven percent say the main purpose is to teach skills that will prepare a graduate to get a job, while 39 percent view college as a time to grow personally and intellectually. The rest saw both missions as equally important.

Here are some of the results of the online survey of college and university presidents:
*Sixty percent of the presidents said they believe the U.S. higher education system is headed in the right direction, but only 19 percent say it is now the world’s best. Fifty-one percent of the presidents described the U.S. system as one of the world’s best.

Answers to this question were different based on the selectivity of the school. Those who said the U.S. higher education system is the best in the world were:
— 40 percent of presidents of highly selective colleges and universities
— 22 percent of heads of schools with medium selectivity
—    14 percent of presidents of schools with lower selectivity
*Fifty-eight percent of the college presidents said that high school students are coming to college less prepared than kids were 10 years ago, and 52 percent said college students don’t study today as much as their counterparts did a decade ago.

*Twenty-seven percent said that faculty at their own schools are too lenient in grading students; 73 percent said grades are about right.

*Sixty-four percent say it is not likely that the United States will achieve the goal set by President Obama to have, by 2020, the world’s highest percentage of college graduates.

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THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: For-Profit Colleges Fare Well in Report's Analysis of Costs to Students and Taxpayers

By Scott Carlson

Government should focus more energy on getting colleges to retain and graduate students, it should scrap its current methods for gathering data on colleges, and it should throw more support behind lower-cost, nontraditional colleges, like for-profit institutions.

These are just some of the conclusions of a report released today called "Who Wins? Who Pays? The Economic Returns and Costs of a Bachelor's Degree."

The report is based on a study that attempts to tally the costs of higher education to taxpayers, as well as the benefits in salary that students reap, from various kinds of educational institutions. It was written by Mark Schneider, the vice president of American Institutes for Research, and Jorge Klor de Alva, a former president of the University of Phoenix who is now president of the Nexus Research and Policy Center. Nexus, which "seeks to do research and promote policies that improve the proprietary education sector," is supported by the Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, and by the foundation of John G. Sperling, the university's founder. (The center has governance independent of its financial supporters.)

As the numbers are presented in the report, for-profit institutions come out looking like a very good investment—for taxpayers and students.

Within the first 10 years of completing their programs, graduates of for-profit institutions get wages that are comparable to or better than those earned by graduates of competitive and very competitive public and private colleges, the report says. Lifetime earnings don't compete as well, but are still comparable to those of graduates of noncompetitive or competitive private institutions.

Clearly, the authors say, college graduates, regardless of sector, are the winners referenced in the report's title.

As for who's paying for those degrees, the authors say that is a more complicated question.

To assess taxpayer costs, the researchers considered direct government support (such as Pell Grants), government subsidies (like state appropriations), foregone taxes through exemptions to public and not-for-profit institutions, and so on, and calculated the costs of a degree per full-time-equivalent student.

From these numbers, the report concludes that the annual net cost to taxpayers of a bachelor's degree per full-time-equivalent student is nearly $8,000 at a nonselective or less-selective public institution, and around $1,000 at a nonselective or less-selective private institution. For each student who attends a for-profit institution, however, taxpayers see a gain of nearly $800 annually, the report concludes.

"Strictly from a taxpayer perspective, for-profit institutions represent a better deal than tax-exempt not-for-profit or public institutions," it says.

In terms of lifetime costs to taxpayers versus taxes paid by graduates, the most competitive and least competitive public colleges came up as representing a net loss. For-profit colleges, however, yielded a net gain of about $60,000 per degree, while more competitive not-for-profit colleges yielded more.

The report also says that taxpayers are "investing far more for each bachelor's degree awarded by the most selective institutions than they are investing in educating students in less selective institutions."

"But even as taxpayers funnel more money to more selective institutions," the report says, "the number of students from low-income families who benefit from these higher subsidies declines."

Return on Investment
The authors acknowledge that with economic metrics as a frame, the study of costs and benefits is limited from the outset. For example, even a noncompetitive nonprofit institution can offer a rich civic and cultural education that for-profits tend not to offer and that may not be accounted for in terms of salaries and taxes.

Those are important issues, Mr. Klor de Alva said, "but that is for another report."

"Ultimately, so many parents and students say, 'I am going to college because I want a decent life, I want a job and a salary,'" said Mr. Schneider in an interview. "For taxpayers, that is also a fundamental thing: Is there a return on this large investment? That is what we are concentrating on."

The report provoked a range of responses from higher-education observers. David A. Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, who reviewed a draft of the report, said that Mr. Klor de Alva and Mr. Schneider made an "honest effort" that used the best data available. "They came at this with a perspective, no doubt about it, but the perspective defined the question rather than the research," he said.

Dennis P. Jones, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, who had also reviewed a draft, said that the study was "well done," but that the authors "reach to make a point" in places. For example, he took issue with the use of foregone taxes, a major part of calculating costs, which he said was speculative.

He also criticized the authors for "their real inability to recognize either graduate students or research functions in the upper echelons of institutions," which he said leads to overstating the costs of higher education to taxpayers.

"As soon as you start talking about institutions that have much broader missions than undergraduate education, the public support is much harder to sort out, and I don't think they have resolved that by any means," he said.

That point was echoed more harshly by Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges. "It has the trappings of a scholarly analysis, but in many ways it is asking the wrong questions," he said.

He pointed to studies that show that traditional liberal-arts colleges educate a large chunk of underprivileged and first-generation students, but without the high loan-default and dropout rates that have dogged the for-profit sector. The report's authors avoid addressing those problems, he said.

Mr. Ekman was also perturbed by what he thought the report implied about investment in public institutions. "Are they proposing that we close public universities? That the only thing of value here is getting people through the system?" he said. "Surely society has a stake in the very highest quality research universities, so it's no surprise that governments would want to invest in them."

Higher Ed: From Out of the Shadows

Higher Ed
By Maria Shine Stewart

The advice started coming in, unbidden.

“Take the course -- if you just want to teach it for the money,” said one well-meaning friend.

“Teach it, but don’t put it on your vita,” said another.

Shrouded in such wishes, I agreed to teach a hybrid course for a local for-profit college in need of a last-minute instructor. I actually had made the decision before my friends’ input, a few minutes after I got the call from the school. I raised the prospect of the course with my friends gently, not to elicit unguarded quotations to use in an opinion piece but rather because I know a strong anti-for-profit sentiment pervades some circles.
I did not need anyone’s counsel, really. Although I may like to get input on thornier decisions, this one was an intuitive yes.

I have taught writing -- off the tenure track but for many years -- at a moderately selective liberal arts school and subsequently at other private institutions, a large state university, a community college and in the work place as a continuing education instructor. I have had jobs outside of universities, often writing or editing.

When I got the phone call from the for-profit, I felt the concern in the secretary’s voice and I wanted to help. Furthermore, I wanted to experience for myself both what it’s like in the classroom -- and in an online course management program -- at a school in the heart of a struggling urban area, a school whose category is sometimes maligned by others. Plus, the opportunity appeared during a semester when my expected course load at other schools had been reduced due to enrollment declines. I might add that, due to my own personal experience, the words “for-profit” do not conjure up demonic images for me.

I attended a small, privately owned “business school” at age 17, which equipped me with skills that allowed me to be self-supporting within one year. Small classes gave me confidence after a difficult adolescence. Several years later I attended college, and those skills learned earlier were a factor in getting a job as a academic secretary in an English department. I can type, handle basic bookkeeping and write grammatically. Admittedly, the fine art of filing never quite stuck.

The owner of that school had been a high school math teacher who -- as he told me -- grew tired of coping with bureaucracy. Despite the risks, he ventured out on his own, hired his own teachers, designed his classes and taught his way. I will never forget him.

I suspected that the pace of the English review class at the for-profit would be fast, and I was not disappointed. I figured that students would be of varying levels of confidence with the course management system (on which I had been trained in the previous semester). I expected a blend of all ages and life experiences, including U.S. military veterans. And yes, students hoped to follow a vocational trajectory, even as liberal arts courses were offered.

There was also an interesting trait I can best describe as no-nonsense coupled with fear of failure. Some students had lives of considerable, prior struggle. Above all, in class they listened, asked questions, and were engaged with the course and with one another. Those that stayed focused and productive passed; those who were spotty attenders and did not submit work failed. The intimate class size (under 10) made it a rewarding setting in which to communicate more completely with each student.

All in all, that stretch early this year proved to be an exhilarating eight weeks for me, and I was rehired for another term now over, teaching a survey of literature. I used all the skills in my teaching repertoire, and students were respectful, motivated, and eager to learn.

Some people do not understand what motivates adjuncts to teach at all -- or, in some cases, to teach so much. I taught a 6-6 load this year, wrote monthly for a business publication, and tutored. This amount of work does not comprise a part-time job; it is a vocation.

One popular media narrative focuses only on economic desperation. I sigh whenever I read the verb “cobble” in journalists’ accounts -- as in “cobble together a living driving from school to school.” Who started this epidemic of cobbling? Given a choice of trades, I am a weaver, arranging courses and curriculums each term. Weaving classes is not a random, sloppy, or frantic process -- though there are weeks that anyone would groan under the load.

News accounts of studies notwithstanding, it has not been my experience that I drive students away. I know few adjuncts who do. In fact, positive class response keeps many of us in a profession where we get little recognition from other sources. We may not be part of the loop in major campus decisions or discussions -- or on the radar of the average person with no connection to colleges or universities -- but we touch our students’ minds, and they touch ours.

I rediscovered this term that students at for-profits are burdened with the same life circumstances and graced with the same hope and potential as others. There is nothing second-rate about their desire to learn and advance. I wish there was more open dialogue on issues that span all institutions: retention, application of knowledge in other settings, interdisciplinary collaboration, default on student loans. Perhaps I wish this because, as an adjunct, I do get a bird’s-eye view.

One night at the for-profit when we were discussing a reading on education, several class members began an impromptu digression, sharing stories about other institutions they had attended. Whether instructors were full-time or part-time at these schools, some students remembered what they described as painful rejections -- of their writing, of even their presence in the classroom. I don’t write this to judge other teachers, merely to reflect that students of all economic standings, backgrounds and ages want to be heard and respected, challenged and supported.

The same holds for teachers. No one wants to teach -- anywhere or for any length of time -- where being unappreciated or ignored is the norm. Conditions of mutual support and conducive to creativity can be fostered (or destroyed) in almost any setting. Thus, I marvel at the good/bad, right/wrong, strong school/weak school rhetoric that swirls around me as both teacher and parent.

With a high schooler of my own approaching his first year of college (at about the same age that I was in business school), I despair at the highly charged (in every sense) environment around “the college choice.” I thought a viable college choice was partly due to goodness of fit and partly what one makes of any choice.

Occasionally when communicating with fellow adjunct faculty members across the country, even the world, I have been admonished not to say or to write that “I love to teach” -- as if affirming that will undermine attempts at improved compensation, respect or professional stability. But I doubt that “I hate to teach” or “I’m an adjunct, so I’m likely hampering retention rates” would be more likely to effect change. If I believed those mantras, I would leave the profession.

The emotional domain is a powerful pathway, and I could not teach if I didn’t have a passion for students, learning, the writing process and expressing myself. This passion is portable.

Even at the for-profit?

Yes, I loved that, too.

Maria Shine Stewart teaches and writes in South Euclid, Ohio.

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THE HILL'S CONGRESS BLOG: Legitimate backlash to the DoEs 'gainful employment' rule


By: Robert Herzog

It has to be difficult for policy makers to admit failure, especially when Congress has soundly rejected misguided proposed regulation.   

But when a group of 118 lawmakers of both parties urge you to re-evaluate your policy; when leading advocacy groups and Members of the Congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses voice their opposition; when your department is investigated by the inspector general for possible corruption; and when you are forced to make statements correcting erroneous data – maybe, it’s time to admit your blunder and start again.

So what policy could be so ill conceived as to warrant such a backlash? 

The U.S. Department of Education’s so-called “gainful employment” rule. The policy will all but ensure the destruction of certain specialty training programs at private sector colleges and universities, a reduced number of college graduates in the United States and fewer Americans prepared to enter the ever-competitive 21st Century workforce. By forcing programs at private sector colleges to adhere to archaic and bureaucratic formulas based on students’ future debt-to-income ratios, the Department of Education will block financial aid to those who rely on these institutions most – minorities, military veterans and working adults.

The measure was originally blocked in the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support. Members passed an amendment that would have blocked funding for the Department of Education to implement the harmful regulation. But, ultimately the language stopping the “gainful employment” rule was not included in the final budget deal negotiated in early April.

And that brings us to the current backlash from lawmakers and advocacy groups. So why is there such a heated response to a regulation that received relatively little attention during the recent budget showdown?

For one thing, the Department of Education’s rule is based on its own faulty data and a Government Accountability Office report that turned out to be rife with unfair allegations. By its own admission, the Education Department incorrectly calculated default rates from career college graduates, forcing the department to recalculate its data after the rule had already been written. Additionally, the GAO released a report last year on which the Department of Education based its initial findings. That report has since been proven inaccurate after the GAO was forced to revise substantial factual errors.

Then, just last week, the Education Department’s Inspector General opened an investigation into the role Wall Street short sellers played in the “gainful employment” rule. As the Daily Caller reported, “The investigation could reveal the extent to which the investors, who are hoping to profit when the [colleges’] stock goes down, influenced the process or received advance knowledge about regulatory actions by the department.”

Justifiably, the news outraged many. In a letter to President Obama, 118 Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle expressed disappointment in the regulation and urged the administration to withdraw it. Lawmakers pointed out that the “gainful employment” rule “will disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged of students and limit access to one of the few sectors of higher education that continually evolves to meet workforce needs.”

Americans for Democratic Action – a progressive advocacy group known for its advocacy of left-of-center causes – followed suit by announcing its opposition to the regulation, saying the rule “could place a significant roadblock in front of millions of students” seeking higher education opportunities.

When a policy causes harm to the very people it is intended to protect, it is time to re-evaluate. When that same policy is based on flawed data, erroneous reports and the potential influence of Wall Street executives seeking a profit, it is clearly time to reassess our priorities and start again. Students in higher education across America deserve better.

Robert Herzog is the chief financial officer of Harrison College, a member of Student Access, Student Choice, which is a coalition of career colleges opposed to the Department of Education's "gainful employment" proposal.

Press Release: May 15 Deadline for Career College Scholarships Nears

Press Release

By: Wanda Minick

TALLAHASSEE, FL – May 5, 2011 – The application deadline for the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC) “Hottest Jobs” Scholarship program for high school seniors and G.E.D. recipients is May 15, 2011.

FAPSC, in partnership with member schools and colleges throughout the state, offers scholarships totaling more than $1 million to help students seeking to further their education at many of Florida's leading private career schools and colleges.

Students still have time to take advantage of the scholarships that range from $1,000, $5,000 to full tuition and can be used for programs ranging from short-term diplomas to four-year college degrees at participating career colleges in Florida.

“With state budget cuts, we’re proud to be part of the solution for those who are looking for careers in Florida,” says Wanda Minick, deputy director of FAPSC.

“We offer more than 400 scholarships each year to help students who want an education with hands-on training that will set them apart as graduates. They will enter the workforce ready for careers in high demand jobs like surgical technologists and sonographers in the healthcare field, or as network administrators, programmers and technicians in the information technology field,” Minick says.

Visit to download an application, find a list of participating institutions to contact directly, or e-mail us at

The Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges works on behalf of Florida’s 360 degree granting and 550 non-degree granting career schools and colleges.  Licensed by the state, these schools educate and prepare over 379,000 students each year for employment in more than 200 occupational fields. For more information, visit

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The Florida Times- Union : Guest column: T-U wrong in student debt 'blame game'

The Florida Times- Union
By: Kathy Mizereck

The level of debt incurred by students getting a college education, exacerbated by the recession, is a serious national problem. But it is not one that can be blamed almost entirely on career colleges, as you imply in your March 31 editorial.
Instead, the editorial's emphasis would have been better placed on the fact that student debt extends to all schools and universities, both public and private.

When loan defaults are analyzed, based on a student's socioeconomic level, they are substantially the same across all institutions. The higher percentage of defaults at our schools is because of the students we serve: adults with minimal family support seeking to improve their lives.
 Further, much criticism of career colleges stems from a U.S. Department of Education trial student loan default rate analysis that focuses on a three-year period ending in 2008. The department has admitted its statistics were miscalculated, which marked many schools with inflated projected default rates.

Critics have relentlessly quoted these inaccurate default rates that would have resulted in the closing of programs in schools across the state had they not been merely trial calculations.

In an effort to deter students from over borrowing and defaulting, our member schools offer workshops about loan responsibility, how to manage it and how to defer debt during the admission process.
Students who choose to enroll in Florida's licensed career colleges do so because they want to be trained in relevant skills and job-ready when they graduate. Awaiting them is a future in growth occupations such as health care, the booming technology sector and criminal justice.

In health care alone, more than 60 percent of the state's credentialed graduates in 2009 - nurses, technicians, medical assistants - came from career colleges.

Career college two-year degree programs successfully graduate 60 percent of their students, compared to the 20 percent graduation rate for community college degree programs, reported by the Department of Education Institute of Education Science.

Our career-focused programs play a vital role in postsecondary education system and are the chosen path to independence and advancement for hundreds of thousands of Floridians. Therefore, our association advocates a single regulatory standard for all institutions of higher education as the federal government attempts to rein in long-term student debt.

Kathy Mizereck is executive director of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges in Tallahassee.