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The Cost of a Bad Education

Article by: Jana Bangerter
January 28, 2015

You want to gain education to get ahead in your networking career. However, some institutions are more interested in your money than in your betterment. Here are some educational traps to avoid:

Business coaching scams

If you want to grow your business but never quite seem to get the numbers you want, business coaching might sound like the right idea for you. Experience and knowledge are, after all, among the most important factors in taking a business from mere words on paper to a thriving reality. No matter how much you know about your market, if you’ve never started a business before, you probably don’t know how to navigate the complex and often sensitive relationships, circumstances, and crossroads moments in your future. A good business coach can provide the knowledge you need to overcome those hurdles—but when it comes to choosing a coach, be careful.

When you choose to pay for any education, you should take time, do your research, and keep your eyes wide open. The excitement and popular interest over the burgeoning field of business coaching unfortunately attracts as many con-artists as it does gifted educators. Over the last few years, fraudulent business coaching companies have snookered millions out of the pockets of the under-employed. The most recent business coaching scam taken on by the Federal Trade Commission, in February of this year, operated using this three phase system:

In the first phase, the defendants used deceptive emails and websites to induce consumers to purchase relatively inexpensive work-at-home kits … which typically cost from $37 to $99 … but instead of showing consumers how to earn this income, the websites tried to sell them more products or services. In the second phase of their scheme, the defendants promised consumers that they would earn thousands of dollars a month using defendants’ coaching program to assist them in establishing their own online businesses. The defendants also encouraged consumers to put the entire cost of the program, generally from $3,000 to $12,000, on their credit card, claiming they would be able to pay it off within a few months. In the third phase of their scheme, the defendants pretended to provide consumers with the promised “coaching” services, while pitching yet additional costly add-on services such as business formation, website design, website development, accounting and tax filing services, and drop-shipping services, none of which proved helpful.” (ftc.gov)

While this gross abuse may sound like a trap for only the exceptionally gullible, remember that overpaying for education has become a social norm. As a country we understand the need to pay for an education, but don’t always understand which educational experiences are worth our money. The Project on Student Debt reports that in 2012, 71% of all students graduating from four-year colleges (that’s 1.3 million students) had student loan debt. If you break that number up across public colleges (66% of graduates in debt), private nonprofit colleges (75%), and for-profit colleges (88%), it starts to paint an interesting picture. Even the average amount of debt is different across that breakdown. Students of public colleges left school with an average debt of $25,550, while students of for-profit colleges left with an average debt of $39,950. To put this in the simplest of terms, for-profit colleges offer the least valuable degrees, yet they cost students the most.

Shady for-profit colleges

Like these business coaching scams, for-profit colleges do not deliver the income opportunities they promise, as evidenced by the fact that “a quarter of all students enrolled at for-profit schools defaulted on student loans within three years—more than twice the rate of students at public nonprofit colleges” (Kirkham). How do they get so many students so far into debt? Using similar high-pressure sales techniques to those employed by business coaching scams.

Both of these businesses revolve around sales—not around products. Business coaching scams rely heavily on creating the impression of a ticking clock—if the consumer doesn’t act right away, the opportunity will “disappear”. Their sales people create pressure designed to prevent consumers from doing necessary research before buying in. For-profit schools prey on student fears, using “pain points” to keep them enrolled. Actual internal training documents from ITT Technical Institute—documents obtained by a Senate oversight committee—include suggestions like “Remind them of what things will be like if they don’t continue forward and earn their degrees” and “Poke the pain a bit and remind them who else is depending on them and their commitment to a better future” (Kirkham). The falseness of the “better future” that for-profit schools hold over students’ heads lends a bit of tragedy to how well the tactic works.

Avoiding the scams

The zeitgeist of our era bends our ideology toward an acceptance of all educational experiences as beneficial. And as I said before, the newness and the high-energy aura of the business coaching industry enhance our positive, preconceived notions about business coaches. Over time, experience teaches many of us the problematic nature of that pro-education bent. Even an education from the best of institutions can lose value the moment you realize that the career choice you made while focusing your studies doesn’t actually suit you in the real world. A good education can revolutionize your earning potential, but often the choices we make about education happen when we’re too young to understand their weight, and when we understand too little about the world to know what we want.

You, however, are not a young college student. You’re a business owner. The work that you do and the market you’re in both center on things that you love. You took every step along the way with purpose, but your passion might increase your desire to rush through the process of choosing a coach. As emotions run high and as all of the other decisions on your plate demand your attention, you may be susceptible to the strong arm of a scam.

Take care as you seek the education you need to take your labor of love to the next level. Ask for references from previous clients and look for coaches who apply no pressure as you make your decision. If they do good work, they will already have clients, and they won’t need to strong arm anyone into their programs. Above all, keep your eyes open and keep in mind the cost of a bad education.

References

Abernathy, P., Asher, L., Cheng, D., & Cochrane, D.. Project on Student Debt: Home. Retrieved October 16, 2014, from http://projectonstudentdebt.org/

Dorman, F. (2014, February 24). FTC Halts Multi-Million Dollar Work-From-Home Business Coaching Scheme. Federal Trade Commission News. Retrieved October 10, 2014, from http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/02/ftc-halts-multi-million-dollar-work-home-business-coaching-scheme

Kirkham, C. (2011, February 8). For-Profit College Recruiters Taught To Use ‘Pain,’ ‘Fear,’ Internal Documents Show. Huffington Post. Retrieved October 10, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/08/for-profit-college-recruiters-documents_n_820337.html

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