ITT Technical Institute in Owings Mills was shut down last summer by the U.S. Department of Education, due to the institute being out of compliance with accreditation standards. The education department has since then been taking a closer look at for-profit educational institutions.
“Know Before You Enroll” is a new public awareness campaign that has been announced by state officials and the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition. This campaign hopes to educate students about the dangers of attending a for-profit school.
One student actively participating in this campaign is Nakia Trezevant. She studied at ITT Technical Institute and is now $12,000 in debt and unable to use the credits she earned towards a degree.
The campaign is similar to one launched in one of the most populated cities in the country, New York City. It’s estimated that in 2015, 58.5 million people visited New York City, which has almost 400 for-profit schools.
Brian Frosh, Maryland Attorney General, said he hopes the campaign “will arm students with the facts they need to know to avoid being victimized by deceitful for-profit schools.”
A report issued by the consumer rights coalition found that for-profit schools unfairly target minority, low-income students who qualify for a high amount of federal financial aid. These students often end up paying more than twice as much as they would have if they had attended a public college.
In 2012, there were almost 30,000 students in Maryland enrolled at for-profit schools. While public school students have an average median debt of $5,610, students who attend for-profit schools have an average median debt of over $18,000.
The President and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, Steve Gunderson, defended for-profit schools, saying the “programs are academically accelerated and move students from the school to their new career as quickly as possible.”
The “Know Before You Enroll” campaign is providing a list of warning signs for students to look for and urges them to avoid schools that guarantee employment. It also warns students to avoid schools that encourage them to enroll on the first day they visit the school. The campaign will be available online to provide advice to soon-to-be students and includes stories from students like Trezevant, who had bad experiences with for-profit schools.
Marceline White, executive director of Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, made a statement about the campaign saying, “People have to recognize that a lot of kids going to these for-profit schools are the kids doing everything right. They’re looking at education as a gateway,” she said. “We just want to make sure that they have ability to make choices that lead them to good opportunities and don’t just saddle them with debt.”