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Economic Downturn A Mixed Bag For Career Colleges

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
March 12, 2009

Many large for-profit career colleges are seeing a surge in enrollment as job-seekers retrain for more lucrative professions. But some small career colleges are being forced to close because private student loans are now more difficult to obtain.

The Kentucky Post reports that large career colleges such as Kaplan College, the University of Phoenix and DeVry University have seen enrollment surge to as high as 45 percent across the country. The demand for training has prompted some branches to add new programs, especially in healthcare. But a California career college association estimated that 200 career schools closed their doors last year as a result of the economic downturn.

"It's kind of a bad news, good news situation," Robert Johnson, executive director of the California Association of Private Post Secondary Schools, said in the Kentucky Post.

The Tennessean reports that many career schools are thriving in the economic downturn, attracting students seeking flexibility while training for new jobs. According to Southern California's Press-Telegram, DeVry University saw a 20 percent jump in enrollment during last fall's semester. The school expects similar growth this year, particularly in California, where the unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation.

"We're seeing a lot of people that have jobs already but are trying to secure their position by upping their skills and positioning themselves for job stability," explained Tom Donini, president of DeVry Long Beach.

For example, Katherine Lofton from Nashville, a medical office assistant who is studying medical billing and coding at Kaplan Career Institute, expects her salary to double after she completes her training.

"I want my grandkids to look at me and see somebody," she told the Tennessean.

Others are enrolling in career colleges to begin new careers, such as Luevina Henry of California, a former successful real estate partner, who is now enrolled at Kaplan College's medical billing program.

"I never thought the medical field was one I'd be in because I don't like the sight of blood. I don't like hospitals," Henry told the Kentucky Post. "But I needed something where I would help people. Where I would make decent money. And where I would be able to expand myself."

Yet career college officials noted in the Kentucky Post that smaller schools have suffered as private loans have become more difficult to obtain. Dr. John T. Hauge, who opened the Career Gateway College in Temecula, California, remarked that vendors he worked with refused to provide loans to students.

He considered closing the school until county officials began offering grant money to people who lost their homes to foreclosure and wanted to return to school. The grants only covered a fraction of the cost of the school's programs, so Hauge redesigned the nine-month medical assistant program to be 10 weeks long. Even though the tuition is now covered by the county grant, the school has only had 11 graduates.

"Right now," Hauge told the Kentucky Post, "it's awful."

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