Councilor, group says students being preyed upon in recruitment efforts

Kaplan Career Institute on Commonwealth Avenue has been under investigation by the Attorney General.

The “predatory” practices of for-profit colleges on Boston students will be the subject of a City Council hearing today.

Among those expected to speak today during the hearing is Attorney General Martha Coakley who yesterday joined 21 other attorneys general in asking Congress to close a loophole in a federal law to prohibit for-profit colleges from deriving more than 90 percent of their revenue from government funding.

Since last year, Coakley has been investigating the recruitment and student loan practices of some of the schools including Kaplan Career Institute in Boston and Everest Institute in Brighton and Chelsea, the Globe reported.

Also expected to testify is a representative from Empire Beauty Schools, formerly known as Blaine.
 The schools, many of which are national chains, have come under fire on the national, state and now local level for their practices. At least seven have campuses in or around Boston.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the national student loan cohort default rate for fiscal year 2009 was 15 percent for for-profit schools. It was 4.6 percent for private institutions and 7.2 percent for public institutions.

Ruthie Liberman of the Boston-based women’s support organization Crittenton Women’s Union, said she’s worked with women who were for-profit school students and said they were pressured to sign up for maximum loan amounts or helped to cheat on tests to be admitted.

“Our clients are totally relying on advertising and don’t have the guidance of a little more savvy consumer,” she said.

Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who called today’s hearing, said she is looking to launch a public awareness campaign in Boston to inform potential students about the risks involved. It would be modeled after one launched in New York City where officials encourage reports from students who have unwittingly taken on a large amount of debt.

“We want to make sure the consumer is fully informed [of] the risks,” Pressley said.

Group closes meetings to press

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last week that the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities will close to reporters a quarter of the sessions during its annual meeting in Las Vegas next month.

Many of the closed sessions concern how the colleges are complying with new regulations on student recruiting and student loan practices, according to The Chronicle.

The association’s president has said his goal is to have its colleges regarded like all other institutions of higher education.
Most national meetings of other higher-education associations are largely open to the news media, according to The Chronicle.


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