For Immediate Release - August 06, 2013

Attorney General Martha Coakley and Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley Discuss Growing Student Debt

AG’s Eliminate D.E.B.T. Campaign Educates Prospective Students on Deceptive Marketing Practices Sometimes Used by For-Profit Schools

BOSTON - In light of the rising cost of education and student debt, Attorney General Martha Coakley and Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley today joined community leaders and members of various local organizations at Roxbury Community College to discuss how to help students become educated consumers when considering their choices for education and career training beyond high school. 

“Students who are likely already struggling financially may be vulnerable to the deceptive business practices that some for-profit schools have used to increase enrollment,” AG Coakley said. “It is essential that our students are educated on how to be smart consumers in general, but especially when considering where they go to school and how much educational loan debt they can afford.” 

“My work is about breaking cycles of poverty,” Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley said. “Many people attempting to do the right thing by furthering their education to increase their job prospects are being misled by deceptive practices of some for-profit schools. The damage to these individuals, their families, and our community is far reaching. It’s a vicious cycle and we must work with community partners and residents to do our part to break it.”

AG Coakley and Councilor Pressley presented tips to prospective students from the AG’s Eliminate D.E.B.T. campaign and urged consumers to familiarize themselves with common deceptive marketing practices used by some for-profit schools including:

  • High pressure sales: Students should be skeptical of schools that use high pressure sales tactics like being pressured to sign documents without being given enough time to fully think through the decision.
  • Preying on the consumer’s emotions: Some schools will use either fear (“Act now because you don’t want to miss this chance!”) or hope (“Visualize yourself making a huge salary and how proud your family will be.”) to convince students to attend the school.
  • The promise of a great paying job: Students should not rely only on the promises of a school’s recruitment representative but should verify job placement rates and educate themselves about the employment prospects of the career they want to explore.

AG Coakley and Councilor Pressley advocated that consumers shop around for the most affordable option when pursuing higher education. The cost to attend for-profit programs may be higher than public community colleges and state universities or non-profit, private 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 $3.7 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 invested more than $32 billion in for-profit institutions.

The outreach program is an educational effort that stems from an ongoing investigation of the for-profit school industry.  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. 

Individuals who believe they are a victim of deceptive practices by a for-profit school should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office at www.mass.gov/ago/schools.

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