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Choosing a Private Career School

Before enrolling, you should make sure you're likely to get a good return on the money you spend, and the effort you put into completing coursework. This may mean gathering information about the job market, identifying the type of work you want to do after you complete the program, and looking closely at the school-- its programs, its staff, and its job placement rate-- to ensure it helps you get where you want to be.

The following questions can help you identify a quality school:

Is the school licensed? Private vocational schools must be licensed in Washington. If they are not, certain consumer protections might not apply. If you are looking at a private, vocational school, make sure they're on the Workforce Board's list of licensed schools. Schools that grant degrees must be authorized to do so by the Washington Student Achievement Council. Cosmetology and barbering schools must be licensed by the state's Department of Licensing.

What percentage of the school’s graduates find jobs? When data is available, the Workforce Board provides performance results through www.CareerBridge.wa.gov. One performance measure is employment: how many of a program's graduates land jobs? You can also find out how much recent graduates earned and what percentage were able to complete an individual education program. About half of the 6,000-plus programs on Career Bridge have these performance results available. When searching for an education program, check the box that says "Programs with Performance Results" in the Find Education section of the site.

How does the Workforce Board do this calculation? The Workforce Board measures the performance of individual private career school programs through the state's Eligible Training Provider list. This list is required by the U.S. Department of Labor and shows which programs meet certain performance standards, including the percentage of students who land jobs, how much they earn after graduating, and whether they complete a program. Schools whose programs meet these minimum thresholds are eligible for federal training dollars. Because this is done on a program-by-program basis, schools can have several programs that are on the Eligible Training Provider list, and others that do not meet these standards, and are not on the list. When data is available, you can find performance results for thousands of individual education programs at: www.careerbridge.wa.gov.

What percentage of students complete their program of study? If a high percentage of students drop out, is it because the program did not meet their expectations, or are they able to find jobs before they complete formal training?

Do you need a state license to practice your chosen occupation? Some professions require a state license for you to operate. You should learn what the state licensing requirements for an occupation are before talking to a school. Check with the Master License Service, Washington State Department of Licensing, P.O. Box 48001, Olympia, WA 98504-8001, 360.753.4401. If a certain level of education or training is required, ask if the school ’s program meets those requirements.

Is the school accredited? Accreditation helps ensure a basic level of quality through peer evaluation of schools and programs. Private educational associations of regional or national scope have adopted criteria reflecting the qualities of a sound educational program. And they have developed procedures for evaluating institutions or programs to determine whether they meet those criteria.More information on accreditation.

Are the school’s facilities and equipment up to date? Ask to sit in on a class and/or take a tour of the school. Most schools will be happy to show off their facilities, equipment, and instructors.

Are industry members involved in providing guidance to the school or program through an advisory committee? Ask for a list of the names and contact information for this advisory committee. Check with these individuals to determine how often the advisory committee meets and how much influence they have on the program. When talking to these people, remember they are prospective employers!

Have you considered all costs? There may be many costs, such as books, student fees, or equipment fees, in addition to tuition.

What is the school's refund policy? There can be significant differences between refund policies at public and private institutions.

Does the school provide academic counseling should you need it?

Does the school provide help to find a job once you complete the program?

Do you homework before you enroll:

Already picked a school? Be sure to retain important records.
Good for you! Make sure you read and keep a copy of your enrollment agreement and any other papers you sign. Also keep a copy of the receipt for any payments you make. These are important records for you to hold onto and store in a safe place. They can help you make your case for getting money back should a school close suddenly while you are part way through your program or if you have a complaint.





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