Career Colleges: Surviving and Thriving
For the better part of the last decade, career colleges and for-profit institutions have come under considerable scrutiny – in the news, the political arena and the community – for unethical and fraudulent practices. Because of this, many institutions have been forced to alter their procedures and hundreds have since closed their doors.
“The reality is we did have some bad apples in our industry,” said Linda Freeman, Asher College Sacramento Campus Director. “There were large corporations that really lost sight of the people that they serve and made decisions driven on the dollar instead of the students.”
But there is some good news. With as many schools that have closed and have been “rooted-out,” there are just as many schools that have survived and continue to serve an important sector of the community.
“Public perception is that all for-profits are bad, and that is not true,” said Freeman. “There are many career colleges, Asher College included, that have served, and continue to serve, a very specific sector and do it well. There are now additional rules and regulations that Asher is required to operate under. We have embraced that and we are thriving.”
Career colleges tend to serve primarily students looking for specific skills and short-term, concentrated career training so they can enter or re-enter the workforce or advance their career. Some have been laid-off, are re-entering the workforce after a long absence or needing to reinvent themselves and completely change careers.
“Without career colleges, where would those people go?” asked Freeman. “At Asher, those people are able to get the career training they need in a short time. By being open morning, afternoon and evenings, we are able to adapt to their schedule and help them move through the curriculum with guidelines and at a pace that helps them achieve their goals in a reasonable time frame. It’s not just about getting a job…it is about being able to get a viable career to be able to continue to make their house payments, feed their families and be productive members of the community.”
Linda Freeman offers some advice to students seeking a career college.
- Always visit the campus – talk to as many staff members as you can, not just the admissions person. Also, talk to current students. A potential student can get a real feel for the environment, culture and values of the institution.
- Check the Better Business Bureau, the United States Department of Education and accreditation agencies. Look and see if the career college is included in local training provider lists. Some useful links:
- Research financial information. Ask plenty of questions. The college should be able to lay out realistic financial expectations and also direct you to financial resources.
- Confirm the existence of a Career Services Department. A college should have professional career advisors who can partner with you to help you meet your employment goals after graduation. Beware: a college cannot guarantee placement. If they make promises, that is a red flag.
- Ensure the college is transparent and responsive. Make sure they give you all the information and resources you need to make a decision and give you the breathing room to weigh your options. If a college is too pushy and eager to enroll you, you should stop and rethink.
Linda encourages potential students to do their research and make sure the college they pick is the right one for them. She also encourages people to look at locally-owned colleges rather than larger corporate institutions.
“Asher College is locally-owned and operated and the owners feel accountable to the community. This is where they work and live and raise their families. There is a different level of accountability when you see the faces of the people you impact every day.”
Linda Freeman has worked at Asher College for 11 years. She currently serves as the Sacramento Campus Director. She has worked in the education arena for 20 years, mostly with a concentration in career training.