Low job placement rates put for-profit colleges at risk

November 18, 2011 1:41:43 PM PST
New figures show two California campuses owned by for-profit education firm Career Education Corp. appear to have placed fewer than 65 percent of graduates in jobs -- the minimum job placement rate required by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

And while Career Education officials disclosed earlier this month that job placement rates at 36 of 49 health education and art and design schools had fallen below the minimum required by the accrediting agency, the new data show that as many as 45 of the campuses may have missed the mark.

At the International Academy of Design & Technology in Sacramento, for example, an estimated 39 percent of students who graduated between July 2010 and June 2011 got jobs in a related field.

The college sells itself as a ticket to an engaging career: "Attention all creative individuals: Now is the time to turn your talents into exciting career opportunities," the website says. "We don't want you to just have a job; we want you to experience a career you love."

Although students in the fashion design and marketing associate's degree program paid about $17,000 per year in tuition and fees, the new data shows fewer than 1 in 5 graduates of that program actually got jobs in the field.

Career Education officials disclosed earlier this month that an independent investigation by outside counsel found that most of its health and art and design campuses had inflated the 2010-11 job placement rates that were about to be reported to accreditors. The investigation was prompted by a subpoena from the New York attorney general's office.

"We have uncovered what were going to be recorded as placements were not genuine placements, according to our standards," Career Education CEO Steven Lesnik said Nov. 3.

After promising to disclose the correct rates to students, Career Education officials this week posted new figures on each college's website.

It turns out that the independent investigators didn't examine employment information for every single graduate. They only reviewed -- and corrected -- a "statistically valid" sample. When they extrapolate their findings to the entire group of graduates, job placement rates fall below 65 percent for 45 out of the 49 colleges they investigated.

Based on this calculation, an estimated 64 percent of graduates of Brooks Institute in Ventura got jobs in related fields. Brooks offers degrees in screenwriting, film and design.

In the coming weeks, lawyers will complete their investigation on the rest of Career Education's campuses, including the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts campuses in Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Career Education serves more than 116,000 students across the world through more than 90 campuses, as well as online programs.

Story courtesy of our media partners at California Watch (A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting)

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