Since the mid-1990s, enrollment at for-profit trade schools and colleges has grown by 225 percent. In 2010, 12 percent of those in post-secondary programs attended a proprietary program, getting a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or taking courses in fields like cosmetology, medical testing or computer or automotive repair. Today, roughly 1.4 million men and women are enrolled, and it’s easy to see why. Ads on Facebook and testimonials on YouTube tout flexible schedules, year-round enrollment, online options and generous financial assistance — provisions that working adults, returning veterans and single parents need if they are going to complete a certificate or degree program.
But for most students enrolled in proprietary programs, the reality of what’s offered falls far short of expectations, leaving them in serious debt. Worse, they often end up with an incomplete or even worthless degree.
Alexei, an immigrant from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, studied history and languages before coming to the US. Once here, he worked in a series of depressing, dead-end jobs, but assumed that a Master’s degree from an American university would give him the boost he needed to land a decent-paying, stable job. He investigated several programs and eventually chose the Keller Graduate School of Management, a division of DeVry University.
“The recruiters told me that Keller was affiliated with 250 Fortune 500 companies: Hewlett Packard, Apple, Google, Microsoft and many, many others,” he told Truthout. “Shortly after I enrolled I went to a school job fair where a few small businesses and the US military had tables. None were looking for managers.”
Classes were equally disappointing. “Everything was very basic,” he continues. “There was nothing hands-on and we’d cover maybe five chapters…