This week, a large, publicly traded for-profit college outfit called Career Education Corp. reached a $10 million settlement agreement with the New York attorney general over charges of gross deception.
Under the terms of the settlement, Career Education admitted that only 24 percent to 64 percent of graduates were able to find meaningful jobs. The company had touted an inflated rate of 55 percent to 80 percent, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Here’s a question: where were the accreditation agencies that oversee Career Education’s bevy of schools? Have they de-accredited those schools?
At least one of Career Education’s accreditors, the Accreditation Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), has done no such thing. Instead, the ACCSC has been busy hounding a tiny massage training school out of business.
That school, Professional Massage Training School (PMTC) in Springfield, Mo., has an employment rate of better than 90 percent for graduates. By contrast, the claimed employment rate among all ACCSC schools is about 80 percent. PMTC also has a graduation rate of 75 percent. The average among all ACCSC schools is 69 percent.
The student-loan default rate for PMTC is 4.2 percent. Just over 20 percent of the students who attend a for-profit college default on student loans.
The account told by PMTC’s owner, Juliet Mee, is a story of David vs. Goliath. She’s David. The ACCSC is Goliath.
The school held accreditation in good standing from November 2000 until early 2012, when the ACCSC denied its renewal application. In the lawsuit that followed, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction allowing PMTC to continue operating (on probation) and receiving vital federal tuition funds.
The ACCSC revoked the massage therapy school’s accreditation for a few reasons.
The accreditor charged that Mee is a bad manager because she fired two employees during a short period of time and because she didn’t properly document faculty members’ work experience. Another charge was that the massage school had an unacceptable arrangement for students to use the library resources of nearby Missouri State University.
In a phone interview with TheDC, Mee defended her institution.
“I feel like we are a very good school,” she said. “We are a small school. There are problems with small schools. But there are definitely problems with large schools.”
The ACCSC disagreed, though, and, without its stamp of approval, Mee’s massage school can’t accept student loans and grant funding—the lifeblood of most American higher education institutions.
“Our students do rely on Pell Grants and loans,” she said. “The accreditors are definitely the gatekeepers for this funding.”