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How some certified schools benefit vulnerable students

This article on Certified Schools was produced by The Hechinger Report, an independent, non-profit media organization dedicated to inequality and innovation in education, in partnership with NBC Nightly News and NBCNews. com.

OAKHAM, Mass. – The timing seemed well chosen. The five people with whom Jessica Evers lived had gone to work and go to school, leaving her alone to take care of her toddler and surf the Internet looking for schools. At the time, in 2010, she was 22 years old and her project was to find a good job and leave this small three-bedroom house located in Hudson, Massachusetts.

And then, almost as if talking to her directly, a television commercial caught her attention.

With catchy music and the promise of a new career, advertising has introduced Evers at Salter College. The school had a half-hour campus and offered certificate programs, which would allow it to start a career faster than the associate degree program.

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She immediately visited the website, which described the financial assistance she could get and, most importantly, promised career placement services to help "students and alumni in every aspect of their career." job search ".

It seemed perfect. Just as it was supposed to do. Evers, who was unemployed, called the next day to make an appointment with the admissions office.

"My dream was to have a job, to improve and improve my life for my child," she said.

When Jessica Evers first visited Salter College in a shopping center in West Bolyston, Massachusetts, she said the staff told her that her degree would launch her career. That's not it.Gretchen Ertl / for the Hechinger report

Certificate programs are often aimed at people like Evers, who have tried to survive with just a high school diploma but who have found only low-wage jobs, which makes any autonomy impossible. Certificates generally take less time than a degree and train students in cosmetology, truck drivers and medical assistants, among others.

For-profit schools, such as Salter and others owned by its parent company, Premier Education Group, have focused on this market. Each student can bring thousands of dollars in federal grants and loans. With millions of potential customers and a guaranteed funding flow, this is a business model that can yield significant dividends.

For-profit schools award nearly a third of certificates, but the promised launch for the middle class often does not materialize. According to the federal database published by the Department of Education and analyzed by the Hechinger Report, most students who incur debts to attend school earn less than high school graduates.

Some certificate programs send students to interesting and well-paid careers, but the results of the for-profit sector are worse than those in the public sphere. For-profit graduates are less likely to find a job than comparable graduates of public certificate programs, and if they manage to get a job, they earn less, according to a study released last year by Brookings Institution.

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