The Office of Massachusetts Attorney General (AGO) has developed a program to increase awareness about deceptive practices in higher education and help Massachusetts consumers better understand the costs and choices associated with post-secondary education.
The AGO’s office has received an increasing number of complaints in the past few years regarding troubling practices at higher education institutions, particularly for-profit schools, that aggressively recruit and make misrepresentations that in turn often leave students with insurmountable debt or default and ill-prepared to succeed. As a result of the numerous complaints, the AGO has recently established a consumer protection campaign and outreach initiative, Eliminate Deceptive Education Business Tactics (D.E.B.T.), that aims to get out in front of this issue to (1) increase awareness about the types of deceptive practices that are frequently used and thus to avoid, and to (2) educate prospective post-secondary students about the importance of learning vital information about the schools and programs they are interested in before enrolling and making a financial investment in any program. Our hope is that by being proactive on this issue, we can better educate the community-at-large and reduce the number of students who wind up in debt with little or no education/training to show for it.
We are focusing much of our outreach efforts on reaching – both directly and indirectly through organizations that work hands on with the targeted populations – the three most susceptible populations of prospective post-secondary students who are routinely targeted by some of these educational companies: (1) high schools students seeking post-secondary opportunities outside of 4-year college, (2) adult learners, either first time or returning students seeking additional training, and (3) veterans. These groups are specifically targeted primarily because of their eligibility to receive federal aid (Title IV and GI Bill funding) which generates a ton of revenue for the schools, among other factors. By creating a dialogue with prospective students about this issue and providing them with tools and resources, we hope to help them make wiser educational investments based on informed choice that will lead to more successful outcomes for their future, and in the process help eliminate deceptive practices.
Click the links below for a background flyer and a new 11x17 poster meant to attract the attention of a wide audience, particularly those who are most frequently and aggressively targeted by some for-profit schools, to alert them of the issue and draw them to our website (www.mass.gov/ago/schools) for more information. Our intention is to distribute this poster to all career stop centers, community centers/service organizations, government offices and program distribution sites with pedestrian traffic, high schools, adult education centers, libraries, and other points of public interest throughout the Commonwealth to get the word out about this issue. We also have bookmarks with identical content to give out to people.
Kelly E. Goss
Outreach Coordinator, Community Information & Education Division
Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley