A few facts and background information.
For profit education has been around for centuries. The concept is not new. There has been one change however that has made a huge impact on profit based education. That change is a shift from student self-pay to some sort of government assistance to pay for education. In 1944, Congress produced the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act – better known as the GI bill. Enter the for -profit school first to fill the gap from an influx of veteran students and then exploitation of those very same students with what is called predatory recruitment. November 8, 1965, the United States Congress passed Public Law 89-329, 79 STAT 1219, which provided financial assistance to students in postsecondary and higher education. Prior to 1965 federal financial aid did not exist. In 1992 for-profit colleges and universities became eligible for federal financial aid. WOOT WOOT for the for-profit schools- First the GI bill for money and now government financial aid.
Generally, non-profit schools include state universities and community colleges. They receive a significant portion of their funding from the government. Most private universities are also non-profit institutions. The community college system has been in existence since the 1900s but really took off in the 1960 when most of the community colleges moved from the private to public sector. Since 1965 these educational institutions have been subsidized by the state and federal government and students can receive financial aid grants and loans. The community college system moved away from the vocational and technical roots and began providing primarily academic education preparing students to move on to a bachelor’s degree at a university.
Well guess what—the for-profit school sector identified the need-vocational training and then filled it. This is what the for-profit school sector is really good at and should be able to provide this type of education in an ethical and quality way. I support for-profit education. I think for-profit schools are the best answer to vocational and technical training. It isn’t the profit that is the problem. It is the access to easy money better known as financial aid. The problem is also the student that is removed from the pay out of pocket reality process of education and instead gets caught in the hidden process of debt. This is so so so sad.
For-profit schools teaching all sorts of skills grew at amazing rate after 1992. However- tuition costs at a for-profit is generally twice as much as tuition at a community college. There are a few reasons for this but three big ones are: cost of advertising, cost of accreditation and administration of financial aid programs and the need to make a profit for owners.
Although for-profits enroll only about 10-15 percent of all students, their students make up about 47 percent of all three-year loan defaults. Part- not all- but part of the reason for this is that the for-profit educational sector has traditionally served the complex student such as young single mothers and individuals that have struggled in the traditional academic setting-including community colleges.
By 2015, new federal regulations will cut off student aid dollars to for-profit programs whose graduates struggle to pay back their loans. Nonprofit public sector schools such as community colleges also have high default rates on student loans. I have no clue what ramification the community colleges will have regarding default rates.
I am going to make a case for financial aid access being a major contributor to problems with massage therapy education. I am also going to make a case for financial aid being the main problem with the current downfall of the for-profit school sector. Specific to massage therapy education are the major problems related to Corinthian College particularly for massage education offered in the Everest division.
It is not the profit part ----but the financial aid part.
Back in the day –pre 1980 most all massage therapy schools were small independently owned for -profit educational schools. There were a few exceptions, but not many. Schools were state licensed as for- profit proprietary schools. MASSAGE THERAPY EDUCATION IS ROOTED IN THE FOR-PROFIT EDUCATION SECTOR. Most massage schools were not accredited. There was no access to financial aid. Read the brief history of Commission of Massage Training and Accreditation COMTA. Notice my added commentary in CAPS
COMTA: a brief history Copied from COMTA WEBSITE.
In 1982, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) Council of Schools (COS) was established, in recognition of a shared concern among educators and school executive directors for the quality of massage therapy education. Early Council work focused on the need to develop and maintain educational standards. I WAS AROUND FOR THIS DEVELOPMENT-THE CONCEPT WAS GOOD.
In 1989, (BEFORE FINANCIAL AID ACCESS) the Commission on Massage Training Approval/Accreditation (COMTAA) was established. In the following two years, with the assistance of AMTA’s Program Approval Review Committee, COS and additional AMTA volunteers and staff, COMTAA created and implemented standards, policies and procedures that would meet the rigorous standards of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) for accrediting agencies. Recognition by the Council on Post-Secondary Accreditation was pursued as a developmental stage toward the ultimate goal of USDE recognition. OK. ALSO GOOD.
In 1992,(OH NO ---RIGHT WHEN FOR PROFIT SCHOOLS COULD GET FINANCIAL AID FUNDS) in an effort to combat widespread fraud, waste and abuse in the federal Title IV financial aid programs, Congress passed the Higher Education Amendments. This law requires USDE recognized accrediting agencies to act as “gatekeeper” of federal funds. The responsibility for oversight of student loan programs for years had been shared by states, accrediting agencies and the USDE. Congress determined in 1992 that this triad was not able to guarantee program integrity and financial accountability in higher education institutions. The Amendments created a new triad in which the states (which have a new enforcement capability) and the accrediting agencies (which have new requirements to meet) each have responsibility for monitoring and reporting to each other and to the USDE.
IN 1992 FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES BECAME ELIGIBLE FOR FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID. ACCREDITATION BECAME A MAJOR PLAYER IN THE FINANCIAL AID GAME. NOT GOOD!
While waiting for the USDE regulations to be issued, COMTAA continued to accredit and approve programs, as well as refine its policies and procedures to be ready to come into compliance with those regulations. In October 1996, an elected COMTAA Commission was seated. The members were elected by the then current COMTAA approved and accredited programs. The initial representation on the Commission included two massage school administrators, two massage school educators, two public members, and one each of professional academic, massage therapist employer and massage therapist practitioner.
THE ABILITY FOR COMTA TO APPROVE SCHOOLS INDEPENDENT OF ACCREDITATION WAS A VERY GOOD THING.
In 1997 the decision was made to end the approval status on March 31, 1999, and change the name to the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). In 2004 COMTA became a completely independent organization. OH NO-END OF ANY TYPE OF APPROVAL STATUS. NOW ALL SCHOOLS WOULD HAVE TO BE INSTITUTIONALLY ACCREDITED AND COMPLY WITH ALL REQUIREMENTS BASED ON FINANCIAL AID. WHAT A SHAME.
USDE recognition was granted July 10, 2002. On November 8, 2004 COMTA’s USDE recognition was continued for five years and the scope of practice was expanded to include accreditation of academic associate degree programs. As part of the renewal of recognition process in 2010, COMTA requested an expansion into occupational associate degrees and aesthetics/esthetics and skin care. The body which determines agency recognition (NACIQI) met in December 2010 to evaluate this renewal and expansion. Both areas of expansion were approved and the COMTA recognition was renewed for one year to allow for certain COMTA procedures and policies to be updated. http://www.comta.org/main/about-comta/
ACTUALLY ALL OF WHAT COMTA DID WAS GOOD. THE PROBLEM WAS THE OVERLAP WITH ACCREDITATION MOVING AWAY FROM A PROCESS TO DETERMINE EXCELLENCE AND BECAME A HURDLE TO JUMP TO ACCESS THE CASH COW OF FINANCIAL AID.
THIS IS WHAT ACCREDITATION SHOULD BE:
Accreditation is a voluntary peer review process that identifies and acknowledges educational institutions and programs for achieving and maintaining a level of quality, performance and integrity based on educational and professional standards. THIS IS GOOD
Benefits of accreditation
•Helps educators increase the quality and performance of massage and bodywork programs.
•Offers external measure of credibility, which assists in attracting quality students, faculty and staff.
•Increases program quality as faculty, staff and students participate in the self-study process and clarify the important role each plays.
•Produces a sense of pride knowing that an impartial assessment attests to the quality of the school/program.
•Provides universal recognition of program quality, often by professional organizations, which may increase recruitment potential.
•Enhances the reputation of the program/school in its local community.
•Provides valuable feedback from many stakeholders, including employers and graduates, to help improve the quality of the school/program. http://www.comta.org/main/accreditation/
ALL OF THE ABOVE BULLETS ARE EXCELLENT REASONS TO BE ACCREDITED. COMTA, IN MY OPINION, TRULY HAS THE BEST INTERESTS OF MASSAGE EDUCATION AT THE ORGANIZATIONAL CORE----
HOWEVER- IN ABOUT 2005 LARGE MULTI PROGRAM, CORPORATION BASED SCHOOLS BEGAN TO ADD MASSAGE TRAINING-WITH FINANCIAL AID ACCESS AND NOT ACCREDITED WITH COMTA. THE MAIN PURPOSE FOR ACCREDITATION NOW IS ACCESS TO FINANCIAL AID. ALSO, LARGE CORPORATIONS BOUGHT INDEPENDENT MASSAGE SCHOOLS-CORTIVA AND STEINER WERE THE BIG PLAYERS. RECENTLY STEINER EDUCATION GROUP BOUGHT CORTIVA. ORIGINALLY MANY OF THE SCHOOLS UNDER THE STEINER UMBRELLA WERE COMTA ACCREDITED. SOME SCHOOLS REMAIN WITH COMTA BUT OTHERS HAVE MOVED AWAY FROM COMTA ACCREDITATION USING OTHER ACCREDITING BODIES. THE PRIMARY SOURCE OF INCOME FOR THESE SCHOOLS IS FINANCIAL AID.
PROFIT IS NOT BAD. PROFIT IS GOOD. FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR EDUCATION CAN BE A GOOD THING BUT INSTEAD FOR YEARS IT HAS BEEN A BAD THING.
Let me stop the CAPS now.
Generally, non-profit schools include state universities and community colleges. They receive a significant portion of their funding from the government and can offer lower tuition. Most private universities are also non-profit institutions.
For-profit schools, on the other hand, are subsidiaries of big public companies. In addition to educating students, the company’s owner or shareholders expect the school to make money.
For example, Steiner Education Group operates schools at 32 campuses in 14 states that train close to 5000 massage and spa professionals each year. Steiner Leisure Limited is a family of companies including Steiner Transocean Limited and is a publicly traded company. Steiner began acquiring schools in 1999.
Corinthian Colleges Inc. is also a family of companies that includes Everest, Heald and WyoTech campuses. The company operates 105 schools in 25 states and 17 schools in Canada. The company was founded in 1995 and we completed an initial public offering in 1999.
My massage therapy school-Health Enrichment Center School of Therapeutic Massage was licensed in the early 1980’s and became accredited with ACCSC to support an articulation agreement with Sienna Heights University. I never participated in financial aid. Through the 1990’s I maintained accreditation but eventually the cost and regulations, primarily because of financial aid requirements (which I did not use), forced me to withdraw in 2010. My dream of a pathway to a bachelors degree for massage therapy was reinvented when the National Certification Board and Sienna Heights University partnered for Board Certification to transfer for college credit. I lived the accreditation experience for years and saw the original intention of excellence dwindle based on gatekeeping for access to financial aid.
OK-all that being said what is the point of this blog? Well there may be a window of opportunity for the small independently owned for -profit massage therapy schools that have struggle so hard for the past 10 years. Our massage community has lost many of these schools but there are some of us that have persevered. Some of us have had to use personal resources to keep the doors open. All of us have worked harder than you can imagine unless you have been in the same situation. Most of us have less than 50 students per year. Some do participate in financial aid and many offer their own in-house payment plans. Tuition need to be reasonable so students can self- pay. Some reading may snark at my recommendations but here they are anyway.
The average yearly income for massage therapists is between $22,000 and $30,000. We may not like it but that’s what the statistic from multiple resources show. When and if the financial aid mess straightens out the amount of financial aid allow in loans and grants will be significantly limited. Relating to debt load to potential income aid will likely be limited to between $5000 and $8000 (my educated guess). If the school participates in financial aid the educational program will need to be about 750 -900 contact hours and a typical tuition cost would be $ 12,000-$16,000. The student will still need to pay out of pocket $7000 -$8000.
Are you ready-----drop access to financial aid.
ELAP is recommending an entry level program length of 625 hours. At $12 a classroom hour a 625 hour program would have tuition of $7500. I know I am an author- and I want you to buy my textbooks- but remember entry level students do not need 10 books to learn massage and books are expensive.
Let's go back to our roots and realize this may be a huge step forward. At the same time all small for-profit schools need to work together. We won’t make it if we continue to stand all alone. The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education www.afmte.org can be our common bond.Community college based massage programs have not increased like I thought. These educational institutions can also respond to this opportunity. I hope massage educators in these systems stick it out and strive for quality vocational education. There are some really quality programs out there in the community college sector. The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education www.afmte.org can be our common bond.
Finally, support COMTA to make a potentially radical move to stop institutional accreditation and stop being a financial aid gatekeeper. Instead revert back to an approval only program that we can afford and support. This may not be possible and if not I sad. Those of us who operate excellent massage schools want to be validated by our peers. We want to be part of accreditation’s original intention of external validation of excellence but that is not what accreditation is about anymore. We need something else.
Here are the links I used for background. Check them out
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934 For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2013 http://www.steinerleisure.com/files/SLL/SteinerLeisureLimited2013AnnualReport.pdf
Moody’s outlooks for the US Higher Education and Not-for-Profit sectors are negative. http://facilities.georgetown.edu/document/1242807545994/11-25-2013_Higher+Education+Not+for+Profit+Outlook+2014.pdf