Schools of broken dreams?

Trade schools could be a questionable choice for post-high school students in today’s economy. Unlike state run universities, vocational and trade schools like the ITT Technical Institute and University of Phoenix are for-profit institutions. Trade schools offer quick education in the health, computer or food service industries with the promise of well paying job prospects upon completion. However, many of these for-profit trade schools may overstate the benefits of their programs.

Tuition for these institutions is rising sharply , some exceeding $30,000 a year. Students continue to hemorrhage money towards vocational school with the idea that a middle class wage will be the outcome. “If these programs keep growing, you’re going to wind up with more and more students who are graduating and can’t find meaningful employment,” Seattle University professor Rafael Pardo told the New York Times. “They can’t generate the income they need to pay their loans, and they’re going to end up in financial distress.”

These schools are seeing a steady influx of federal tax dollars each year such as federal student aid money and Pell grants. A large factor in the popularity of vocational schools is the intense marketing tactics employed by representatives. Representatives promise success, prompting students to rack up large debts with no assured means of paying them off. In response, the Obama administration is restricting the ability of institutions that receive federal aid to reward their admissions recruiters based on annual admission numbers.

The Times reported, “The Apollo Group—which owns the for-profit University of Phoenix — derived 86 percent of its revenue from federal student aid last fiscal year. … Two years earlier, it was 69 percent.” The University of Phoenix has a Reno operation.

Many see trade schools as the quickest, most efficient way to get through post-high school education and get a job, but officials say they need to be wary. The profits of these schools have become largely a taxpayer expense. Federal and state student loan programs are suffering along with students who are being exploited by advertising and the promise of a future.

Attempts to reach Kathy Gamboa, director of the Northern Nevada campus of the University of Phoenix, were unsuccessful.