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Be Wary of On-Line School Scams

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Online schools abound, and in the economy many newly found unemployed people are being encouraged to "Get More Training." The schools are very aggressive in how they search for students. With one online job website I signed up for, the daily jobs are accompanied by a daily come on to go to school. You can apply for a Pell Grant to pay for some of these schools. Years ago I applied for and received a Pell Grant for a hairdresser college. The good news: once received you don't have to pay back a grant. It is not a loan. It is free money. The cons: if you don't finish your training, the Pell Grant will be revoked. If your funding is revoked from the school, as mine was, because circumstances arose that made it impossible for me to attend, I ended up owning the whole tuition to the school. That was a lot of money.

And there are other issues. Here in California quite a bit of Pell Grant money went to barber colleges and hairdresser schools. So much so, that John and Ken, a pair of conservative talk radio DJ's, devoted a whole show to complain. They wanted to know how that was going to create JOBS for California. I can understand their concern. While fine salons charge top dollar, many people struggle to pay bills on a hairdresser's salary. It is also not likely that a freshly graduated student from barber college will be in any position to hire someone else. However, to an unemployed clerical worker the switch sounds promising. If someone else is paying for the schooling, many people are willing to give it a try. As far as vocation schooling goes, I would say hairdressing is on the up and up. It IS a skill, you CAN get hired, and once hired you will make some money. Some of the other schoolings available are more risky.

For example, many private colleges are twice and three times as expensive as a state school or ten times the cost of a class at community college and the education received may not be better or any good at all. IF the college is not "accredited" even if the information you received was worthwhile, it won't help you get employed. I once attended an unaccredited "Bible college." The classes were fun and the information interesting, but because it wasn't accredited, graduating would not have made me pastor material for very many places. It would have been ok if I meant to start my own church, but it was nowhere near as useful as having a divinity degree from Harvard or the University of Chicago.

One of the more famous online school contacted me a few years ago and I dallied briefly with the idea of furthering my education. I live very remote and the idea that I didn't have to commute was appealing. I started to wonder about their validity when the sales person called me on the way to my friend's funeral and would not take "wait" for an answer. I later looked up this school on blogs on line and found a lot of dissatisfied customers. Most of them upset with the billing aspect, and financial aid department of the school. Once again the information was interesting, but after spending six grand a semester on school many were disappointed to learn the additional scholarship, or grant funding or student loan promised and discussed never materialized.

Do your due diligence. Find out if the training you are looking for is available with a reputable school that has a physical campus. While a physical campus is not a guarantee – it's definitely less sketchy than a purely online school. A purely online may be operating out of someone's garage for all you know. Look for training that will lead to a direct job. For example in the medical field there are many technicians. If you know how to run an X-ray machine, you can look forward to a career. Other trainings are more "iffy." You can't do much therapy with only a BA in psychology, you'll most likely need the long haul PhD before you can go into private practice. This of course, would be very lucrative at the end, but if you don't have the intent to do 8 to ten years of school, don't start.

I have a friend who at the end of foster care was offered a chance at further training. The idea was keep former foster care recipients off of welfare. My friend took training to be a home care attendant. She did receive a certificate which made her more attractive than the average employee, but the truth is you don't really need specific training to be a home care attendant. If you have caring heart and listening ear, a patience with old or young people, you can strike out on your own looking for work. Once your resume is built up you can hope to make minimum wage through an agency. It's not a career, it's just a job.

Another friend of mine took training to work in a doctor's office. I suppose they taught her how to take vitals, such as blood pressure and pulse, but not much else. The fact is medical coding for insurance forms is pretty complicated and extraordinarily well paying. If you have the time to take training specifically for that, it is a real skill. What she paid for and received was not. Few doctors want an office worker only to answer the phones. They need to get paid, and that requires an aide who knows how to submit the insurance forms correctly.

Some of the online schools have difficult and ridiculous requirements that have to do with working with other students. It is very demoralizing to have your grade be dependent on other people. If you want to slack as much as them you'll get a bad grade. If you want to work harder you'll do all the work and they will get equal credit. At real universities individuals rise on their own merit. The school may justify their requirement by saying it "helps" people learn, it actually just relieves the teacher of some workload. So Beware!



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