NEWS BLOG (WSAU) There are some people who recognize they’ve made bad choices in life, and, after wallowing in those consequences might decide they want something better for themselves. That was the type of person that Everest College targeted. Typical students: a single mother who’s raising the kids of two-or-more deadbeat dads; someone who dropped out of high school, managed to get a GED, and has found out that it doesn’t count for much in the working world; someone who did some time in jail and is now trying to stay on the straight-and-narrow.
The past can’t be changed. The future is unwritten. I applaud people who come to the conclusion that their old ways aren’t working and are ready to make changes.
Many of the typical students at Everest (a for-profit school, think Phoenix Academy and the like) would struggle in a normal college environment. A traditional 4-year degree may be too time consuming, too expensive, too out of reach. But their employment prospects would be greatly improved if they could get specific job training, or, perhaps work towards a 2-year associates degree.
Everest College got a grant to renovate a downtown Milwaukee building. They set up shop in the fall of 2010 and began enrolling students. About 1,500 signed up. Almost all needed student-loans to attend.
Today Everest College is shutting down its Milwaukee classes.
The school received a tremendous about of negative publicity, mostly from the local news media. About half of Everest’s students dropped out. The job-placement numbers were not good – about 7%. The school risked losing its accreditation. Students still had to pay off their loans after they gave up on going to class. So the school decided to save face and leave the marketplace.
I have no opinion about the quality of education offered at Everest College. I’m not qualified to judge it. But I have a lot to say about offering a chance to people on the bottom rungs of our economy. Look at the typical Everest students I described above. If that’s a school’s student-body, of course the dropout rate is going to be high. Many of those same people might fall back into their old vices. Some potential employers might not be forgiving, considering how many others are also looking for work. I’m not surprised at all that Everest’s student-retention and job-placement numbers are low.
So, let’s ask some questions. When a student drops out, whose fault is it? If a graduate can’t get a job, whose fault is it? It’s far more likely to be the student’s issue than the school’s.
Everest has been painted as a rip-off Mickey-mouse diploma mill. Who knows. Certainly any student who enrolls in a program should make sure its right for them. What I’m certain of is that there are very few opportunities for people at the bottom. And a way for people to move up has been run-out-of-town.