Mass. AG launches education initiative about for-profit school industry

By Bryan Cohen | Apr 10, 2013

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a new consumer protection campaign Wednesday meant to train consumers about the deceptive marketing practices some for-profit schools use to pursue students.

The Eliminate Deceptive Education Business Tactics campaign is designed to educate prospective students about for-profit schools, making sure they receive the training they desire. The campaign includes free educational trainings throughout the state and a new website offering resources for consumers related to the for-profit school industry.

"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," 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 outreach program stems from an ongoing inquiry into for-profit schools in Massachusetts. Last week, Coakley's office sued the Brockton-based Sullivan & Cogliano Training Centers after the school allegedly misrepresented job placement numbers and made other misleading claims about training, leaving graduates with few opportunities and hefty debts.

According to recent government studies, for-profit schools spend a combined $4.2 billion annually on recruiting and marketing efforts. Federal taxpayers paid for more than $32 billion in student loans to for-profit institutions in 2009, and approximately 47 percent of federal loan money going to for-profit education institutions ends up in default.

Coakley's office is cooperating with multiple community partners, government entities and other organizations to connect with prospective students. The initiative has reached more than 3,500 students, prospective students, education professionals and other consumers and may reach at least 5,000 more consumers during more than a dozen scheduled events.

On Wednesday, the Boston Globe published an op-ed written by Coakley that compared for-profit schools to the subprime mortgage crisis.

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