Trade School Suddenly Closes Its Doors, Stranding Students and Unpaid Teachers

Monday, January 13, 2014

The state’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education has an Alert on its homepage for the 850 students attending Career Colleges of America’s (CCA) three Southern California campuses—and a chilling one-sentence link to a Guide for Students Facing a School Closure.

Early last week, teachers who have not been paid for months began to bail and students in San Bernardino, South Gate and Los Angeles realized that the for-profit trade school was in danger of closing. The campuses were shut a few days later and students started the process of recovering tuition, dealing with federal loans they had taken out and figuring out where, if anywhere, they might continue their education.

The college, which has been in business since 1988, had been experiencing financial problems and was threatened with a loss of accreditation in August, according to the Los Angeles Times. The school specializes in preparing students for work in medical-related fields. It offers training in: holistic massage therapy, diagnostic medical sonography, surgical technology, medical billing, alcohol and drug counseling, medical and dental assistance, fitness training and more.

The Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training (ACCET) officially withdrew accreditation (pdf) last Thursday, the day after the school said it was ceasing operations. The council foretold a world of hurt and disappointment for the students and said it would try to “mitigate some of the hardship.”

That won’t be easy. Students will have a tough time transferring their credits to other institutions and recovering their money from the school. Efforts to find another school to partner with CCA and absorb its students have not been successful. InterCoast Colleges, which had been considered a possible savior, announced that it could not accept the students and that it had been “advised that management of CCA currently is exploring another teach-out option.”

For-profit schools like CCA have come under increased scrutiny lately after years of dubious achievement. The federal government recently put in place new regulations that required these schools to get state authorization before participating in loan programs.

California has more than 1,000 for-profit colleges, including the University of Phoenix, ITT Technical Institute, Academy of Art University and Citrus Heights Beauty College.

About 11% of California students in post-secondary education are in for-profit schools, but their impact is felt beyond their numbers. They receive more Cal Grant dollars than those in community colleges, where around 60% of students attend. A study of for-profit schools nationally found that, although they also only represent between 10-13% of the student population, for-profit schools get 25% of the financial aid and account for nearly half of all federal student loan defaults.  

The industry is full of deceptive recruiting practices, high costs, fraud and lousy student performance, which have gone on for decades and continue to get worse. Jamienne Studley, appointed deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education in September, compared some for-profit schools with payday lenders, who charge usurious short-term loan rates, in an interview last year with California Watch.

But unsuspecting students, many of them from low-income families seeking an escape from poverty, continue to be misled. If only they have checked out the wiki at, where the question “Is Career Colleges of America a good school?” was decidedly answered in the negative:

“You would be better off staying away from institutions such as this one. The school does not have the preferred regional accreditation. This can present a number of problems in the future. First, the coursework and degree you complete will not be recognized by other regionally accredited colleges and universities (which most are). Second, the credits will not be transferable, nor will the degree be recognized should you wish to pursue a higher degree at a later date. In addition, the coursework and degree may not be recognized by many employers.”

Then again, your school may fold in mid-semester.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Trade College May Close Its Doors (by Mark Muckenfuss, Riverside Press-Enterprise)

Students and Faculty Blindsided by For-Profit School’s Closure (by Christine Mai-Duc and Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times)

State Ponders Shifting Oversight of For-Profit Colleges from Quality to Abuse (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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