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For Would-Be Health Workers, Disappointment With For-Profit Colleges

For Would-Be Health Workers, Disappointment With For-Profit Colleges

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nursing aide, allied health professions, health workforce, health reform, bryman, everest, barbara feder ostrov, reporting on health, health journalism

Under U.S. health reform, we're supposed to need more physician assistants, nursing aides and other health paraprofessionals to serve an influx of newly insured patients.

But are the private, for-profit colleges who train nearly a third of the nation's allied health professionals up to the task?

Not necessarily. While the media has shed light on objectionable or even fraudulent practices of for-project colleges, little has been written about how students hoping to get health care jobs fare after attending these schools. Many of these students are low-income and face bills of tens of thousands of dollars, only to encounter low salaries and, in some cases, employers who don't consider them qualified.

This is a great story to pursue in your community, and another way to dip a toe into covering health reform implementation and health workforce issues at the local level.

Job supply and demand issues also can come into play. Late last year, the Angry Pharmacist pointed out in his blog that would-be pharmacy technicians were going $15,000 or more into debt with these schools, later finding that their dream jobs were scarce. He didn't mince words:

Pharmacy tech schools/programs are cropping up around here in California like herpes after the prom.  I, for one, am sick and tired of these schools duping young ignorant students into handing over their hard earned money to get some half-assed education when they can avoid it all together

These schools are swindling these students out of their money with promises to "get in on the pharmacy action" when there are already TOO many techs LOOKING for jobs.  I don't think its (sic) right because the schools make it sound like their program is the only way to get a tech license, and that's an outrageous lie.

The stakes are high at both the national and local levels, because it's your tax money that's helping pay for expensive education that doesn't always deliver what it promises.

In its report, Profiting from Health Care: The Role of For-Profit Schools in Training the Health Care Workforce, the Center for American Progress notes:

For-profit colleges came under scrutiny from the press, student advocacy groups, and the federal government in the past year for their steep enrollment growth, high profit margins, and dependence on federal dollars. Reports reveal extraordinary enrollment rates contrasted with low graduation rates and high student loan defaults. This is a significant issue for the individual students who carry high debt burdens without the benefit of a college degree as well as for the federal government, who provides the grants and loans that make up 90 percent of these companies' revenues in some cases.

Additionally, when the Government Accountability Office looked at for-profit schools and their reliance on federal student aid, they found schools that specialized in "health care" tended to have their students rely more heavily on student aid.

Online comments from students taking health courses at for-profit schools like Everest (formerly the Bryman Colleges) can't be verified, but as a group, they're compelling and heart-breaking. In one example, "Darlene of Amesbury, MA" writes in a September 1, 2011 comment on

Everest sounded really good on the commercial but once in, the professionalism of all from admitting, teachers, unruly students, career advisors was so devastating that it was beyond understanding why I even fell for all the lies that I was told.

The money is all they cared about not the student that was really serious about being a medical assistant. They actually interrupted a class just to pull students out because they did not pay

I do not earn what I was told I was going to get; so much less, I'm a clinical assistant not a medical assistant. I was told that I was going to be certified but it never happened. This has been a nightmare.

Campuses of for-profit colleges and training institutes are expanding nationwide. Are they keeping their promises in your community?

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