Students Currently Attending Private Occupational Schools
Licensing requirements for schools and for sales representatives protect students from the harms that can occur if a school does not provide the education that the student reasonably expected, if a school closes, or if a school does not provide a timely refund of tuition.
A student who believes that a school or a sales representative is not complying with the law may file a complaint with DPL by calling the telephone tip line for occupational schools at 617-727-6917 or filing a written complaint. The DPL Application for Complaint form is available here . Every complaint will be investigated, and appropriate cases will be prosecuted.
In addition, Chapter 106 allows students to pursue a private civil action against an officer, representative, or school that misleads or falsely advertises. The student may recover treble damages or $10,000, whichever is greater, plus costs and reasonable attorney's fees. DPL is not a party to these actions. Schools are required by regulation to establish a complaint procedure.
Students of Closed Occupational Schools
If your school closed unexpectedly and you were not able to complete your program of study, you may be eligible to obtain a refund of your tuition or participate in a "teach-out" of your program. For more information, please refer to the Closed School Bulletins for your school.
If your school is no longer in operation and you need a copy of your records or transcript, you can obtain them by following this Closed Schools and Student Records link.
Students Considering Attending A Private Occupational School
Thinking about attending a private occupational school? The following links will prepare you with what questions to ask of schools, what resources are available for financing your training, and what consumer issues you should consider.
Know Before You Go
Here are some useful resources to jump-start your thinking. While some links are specific to college attendance, that information often applies as well to occupational school programs:
- Vocational School Guides (Publication from the Federal Trade Commission).
- Choosing a Vocational School another useful guide from the Federal Trade Commission on choosing a Vocational School.
- Consumer Assistance Bulletin: How Do I Choose A Private Occupational School? (DESE Publication).
- U.S. Department of Education, Thinking About Going To A Career College Or Technical School? publication provides useful information on how to determine the right school for you, what questions to ask, and how to finance your training.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook a U.S. Department of Labor source for career guidance and information concerning changes in the world of work and the qualifications that will be necessary for tomorrow's workers.
- College for Adults includes useful information on choosing and financing programs.
- High Hopes for College and Think College Early are two initiatives that focus on providing information on colleges to young students and their parents. High Hopes for College is a proposed discretionary grants program that would allow at least one middle grade school in a high-poverty area to partner with a college or university, and at least two other partners, to learn about college and what it takes to get there over the course of six years. Think College Early is a public information campaign to get the right information on preparing for college out to middle grades students and their parents, and to enlist the help of schools, businesses, colleges and universities, and community and arts organizations -- all those who touch the life of a middle grades child.
In addition, the following links will help you to think about some basic skills you might need to develop before you enroll:
- Do you need to improve your English skills, obtain a GED, or simply improve your academic skills prior to enrolling in a private occupational school? Please call the Massachusetts Adult Literacy Hotline for help finding a program: http://www.getrealmass.info/hotline/.
- Massachusetts students seeking to obtain a high school equivalency or obtain records of their Massachusetts high school equivalency should click here. Students who completed a high school equivalency in another state should check with the Departments of Education in the state in which they obtained their high school equivalency.
Finally, here are some links to useful resources that will assist you in determining how to finance your education:
- What do I need to know about getting loans to pay for my education? (DESE Publication)
- How To Apply for Federal or State Student Financial Aid (DESE Publication)
- Student Loans: Avoiding Deceptive Offers and How to Spot Deceptive Private Loan Practices useful advice from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Student Guide to Federal Financial Aid Programs is an overview of current federal financial aid programs by the U.S. Department of Education.
- Massachusetts Approving Agency for Veteran's Training is the state agency responsible for approving and supervising programs at educational institutions and training establishments in Massachusetts which offer education and training to veterans and other eligible persons under the Veterans Education Assistance Program.
- Do you already have a student loan, but need assistance? Are you in default? Do you need help restructuring payments? The following organizations may be able to assist you.
- U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General Alerts provides consumers with current fraud alerts relevant to education (e.g. student loan fraud, telemarketing scams).
- Office of the Attorney General where you will find regulations to help you determine whether conduct, terminology or representations involve unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive acts or practices.
For students thinking ahead, or those who are considering transferring to another educational institution once they complete their training, the following links provide useful information to consider.
- MassTransfer is an interactive website for students seeking to transfer into a Massachusetts Community College or other Massachusetts Public College. The site contains information on the what, why, and how to transfer; provides information on the MassTransfer Block; and, links to the transfer counselors at the public colleges.
- The Directory of Massachusetts Transitions Programs provides contact information for ABE Transitions to Community College Programs, which are for those entering college for the first time, which can be challenging, particularly if the student is coming from an adult basic education program. Often the gap between achieving the high school equivalency diploma (GED) or Adult Diploma (ADP/EDP) can be enormous. The Massachusetts Transition Programs are designed especially for those who are interested in exploring and accessing higher education, but may be unsure about what the college experience entails. The Transition programs will ease the transition and assist the student in exploring and learning about college life, including accessing services and successful achievement of academic goals as needed for career and further education and training opportunities.
Other Useful State Agency Links
- Division of Apprentice Standards (DAS) is the state agency responsible for promoting, developing, and servicing registered apprenticeship programs in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
School Accreditations and Accrediting Agencies
By law, private occupational schools licensed by the Division of Professional Licensure may advertise accreditations only from agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). For a listing of USDOE-approved accrediting agencies, please visit the Office of Postsecondary Education's (OPE) website. Please note that when looking up a school or an accrediting agency on OPE's website, you must use the exact name of the school.
What does it mean when a school is accredited? To learn what accreditation means for you and the institution you are considering attending, please visit the U.S. Department of Education's website on "Accreditation in the United States". In addition, more information on accreditation can be found through the following links:
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
- Accrediting Commission of the Council on Occupational Education (COE)
- Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
- Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
VALOR Act Protections for Students Performing Military Service
Outreach, and Recognition, also known as "VALOR Act II." Included within this new law is a provision that protects students enrolled in private occupational schools, or post-secondary academic courses at a public or private institution of higher education, from incurring academic or financial penalties as a result of performing military service.
Specifically, where a student is unable to complete an academic course because that student is called to, or enlists in, active duty, schools must allow that student the option of:
- Completing the course at a later date without penalty; or
- Withdrawing from the course with a full refund of fees and tuition paid.
If a student chooses to complete the course at a later date and the course is no longer available upon the student's return, the student must be allowed to complete a replacement course for equivalent credit without penalty. If a student chooses to withdraw from the course, the student's record must reflect that his or her withdrawal is due to active duty military service.
Please note that this provision of VALOR Act II is now in effect, and can be found in the General Laws at M.G.L. c. 15A § 43(a). For more information on licensing benefits available through the VALOR Act, please visit https://www.mass.gov/advisory/licensing-benefits-for-active-military-spouses-veterans.