Education

The questions to ask before enrolling

Is there a special kind of accreditation for this program and do you have it?

Careers like nursing, physical therapy, and nutritionist have special accreditations. It is the equivalent of a “gold seal of approval” from experts in the field. Anyone attending a program that doesn’t have this accreditation may find it harder to get a job, or to even get licensed for the profession. Google “What is the program accreditation for [your major]” to find out more. For nursing, the accreditation to look for is either Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accrediting Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

What is the total program cost?

Some schools may state the cost per semester or the cost per credit hour. But the key number is the total cost of the program, from start to finish.

Can I take this paperwork home and review it? Can I call you back next week?

With a decision costing tens of thousands of dollars, it is wise to take the documents home and read online reviews of the school.

In any dispute with the school, legal or otherwise, what’s in the documents is what matters, and the documents are written by the school.

If the school applies pressure by saying “classes are filing up” or “this program won’t be available next week” — that is a red flag. There will always be time to sign up next week.

Does my community college have this same program?

Many times, programs at expensive for-profit schools are offered at the community college for much less money. Florida has some of the best community colleges in the nation. An added benefit: Community college credits transfer to other schools. There are legitimate reasons to attend a career college, but it is important to do the comparison.

Are you “regionally accredited”?

This is the key question when it comes to transferring college credits. Schools will always say they are accredited, but if they don’t have regional accreditation, their credits won’t transfer to traditional schools. Most career colleges don’t have regional accreditation — they are “nationally” accredited, which sounds impressive but is actually a sign that the credits aren’t transferable.

If something goes wrong

If you are a student who feels you were misled or harmed by a college, you can file a complaint with Florida’s Commission for Independent Education, the Florida Attorney General, or the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Filing a complaint may not immediately solve your problem, but it still matters — the attorney general, for example, is more likely to investigate a school if there are lots of complaints filed.

To file a complaint with the Commission for Independent Education, go to this website: http://bit.ly/1JgUiSD

For the attorney general: http://bit.ly/1QosduG

The CFPB accepts student loan complaints at: http://1.usa.gov/1EvFdeN

Loan discharge

In a few circumstances, students may be able to discharge their federal student loans. For example, if a school closes while you are attending, and you don’t finish the program through a “teach out” at another school, those loans may qualify for a discharge. Another situation where students can ask the federal government for a discharge is if they were enrolled but weren’t actually eligible for the program — this could mean a student who didn’t have the required high school diploma, or a student who enrolled in a medical program but has a criminal record (which usually disqualifies them from employment). Because the school should not have enrolled these students in the first place, students can ask for a discharge.

More information on loan discharge can be found at this website: https://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation

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