For Immediate Release - April 10, 2013

AG Coakley Launches Initiative to Educate Students about For-Profit School Industry

Eliminate D.E.B.T. Campaign and New Website Begin Major Outreach Effort About For-Profit Schools; AG Efforts Have Already Trained More Than 3,500 Students and Prospective Students

BOSTON – Aiming to increase awareness of the deceptive marketing practices that some for-profit schools use to aggressively pursue prospective students, Attorney General Martha Coakley has launched a consumer protection campaign that includes free educational trainings across the state and a new website offering resources for consumers related to for-profit schools.

The AG’s Eliminate Deceptive Education Business Tactics (D.E.B.T.), campaign is designed to educate prospective students about for-profit schools and ensure that they receive the training they hope to obtain. According to recent government studies, for-profit schools spend a combined $4.2 billion a year on recruiting and marketing efforts, often targeting veterans, adult learners, and low income families. Most students need a federal loan worth thousands of dollars to afford tuition. In 2009, federal taxpayers paid for more than $32 billion in student loans to for-profit institutions. Studies show that an alarming 47% of federal loan money paying for for-profit education will end up in default.

“While some for-profit schools offer quality training and legitimate diplomas, this is an industry that often markets subpar programs to veterans and low-income students who depend on federal loans,” AG Coakley said. “The Eliminate D.E.B.T. campaign is designed to teach prospective students what they should know before enrolling so that they receive adequate training that leads to future employment. When students don’t receive the training they sign up for, it impacts their futures and it impacts taxpayers when those students can’t pay off their loans.  We all have a stake in this.”    

The AG’s outreach program is an educational effort that stems from an ongoing investigation of the for-profit school industry.  Just last week, the AG’s Office sued Sullivan & Cogliano Training Centers, based in Brockton. According to the lawsuit, the for-profit school allegedly misrepresented job placement numbers and made other misleading statements about its training to students, leaving graduates with large amounts of debt and few opportunities.

In December 2012, the AG’s Office responded to concerns and assisted former students and faculty of the American Career Institute (ACI) after the school abruptly closed its five Massachusetts campuses.

As part of its outreach effort, the AG’s Office is already cooperating with a number of community partners, government entities and other organizations throughout the Commonwealth that have direct contact with prospective students who are considering post-secondary degrees and other higher learning opportunities. The AG’s Office is also providing free educational trainings for groups interested in the issue.

Through those trainings and other events, the initiative has already reached more than 3,500 students, prospective students, educational professionals and other consumers. Over the next few months, the AG’s Office expects to reach at least 5,000 more Massachusetts consumers at more than a dozen scheduled events.

The launch of the new Eliminate D.E.B.T. website at www.mass.gov/ago/schools will also enable students to access resources online, including information about the industry and practices that should raise red flags for prospective students. Materials on the website include a “For-Profit School Fact Sheet”, a list of deceptive tactics called “Protect Yourself: Tactics To Be Aware Of”, and a “Before You Enroll” checklist.

Today, AG Coakley released an op-ed discussing for-profit schools and the similarities to the subprime mortgage crisis.

The AG’s Office encourages prospective students to educate themselves about their opportunities and be wary of aggressive recruiting. Other consumers can contribute by learning about the issue and starting the conversation with students and prospective students.

Students who feel they may have already been harmed by a school engaging in a deceptive or unfair practice can report such incidents to the AG’s Office using the e-complaint form at www.mass.gov/ago/consumercomplaint.

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