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More Enrollment Questions

This is a response I got to my list of questions to ask schools before enrolling. It is from Alan Danor, who is currently employed as an instructor in a computer course at one of the San Diego higher profile vocational and technology schools.

These are all good questions to ask, but I would add a few more things to this list.

Vocational School Accreditation

First, A note on accreditation. Being accredited by a federally recognized accrediting body means the school can issue degrees, but it is principally used by schools to make themselves eligible for federal student loan money. Making it far more immediately useful to the school than to the student. If a school says they are accredited, make sure the very next words out of your mouth are a polite accredited by whom? Get the exact name of the accrediting body, not just the initials or acronym. Once you have this, you can look them up on the web to find out if the accrediting body exists and that the school you are looking at is really listed as accredited by that agency. 
Next, recognize that if you have any aspirations to transfer credit from the school in question to another school, you need to call the school to which you want to transfer credit and ask them if they accept course credit from schools accredited by the agency that accredits the school you're considering. For example, schools in the University of California system will only accept credit from schools accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges(WASC) or one of its equivalent regional accrediting agencies, If your current IT school is not accredited by WASC, it is , to all intents and purposes, not accredited as far as UC is concerned. Keep that in mind before you shell out tens of thousands for a lot of training you'll probably have to take over again. 

Vocational School Tuition Cost

Secondly, Ask the cost of tuition when you first walk in. Don't let them launch into their sales pitch first(a common tactic). Make them tell you the cost up front. Any school that balks at telling you the price of tuition, including books and probable ancillary costs is probably charging you too much. It's that simple. Someone who thinks they are offering good value for a product they believe in is not afraid to quote a price, even if that price is high. If you call them on the phone, don't fall for the trick of promising to tell you the prices if you'll make an appointment to come to the school. This is a frequently used technique to get you on their turf. It's pure sales intimidation. Just flatly tell them that if they won't tell you the cost over the phone you're not interested in attending the school. Don't be surprised to find a direct correlation between affordability and a willingness to tell you the tuition cost up front.

Vocational School Facility Tour

Thirdly, ask to tour the facility. Again, make them give you the tour before the pitch, and trust your first impressions. Check the school web site, if it has one before you go and compare the impression you get from the web site to the one you get when actually there. If the web site or brochure looks like something out of Star Trek and the real lab equipment looks like it was donated from somebody's garage, expect the rest of what they tell you to be similarly misleading.
While on the tour, ask to meet  the course instructors and see the textbooks you'll be using for the course. Any school that isn't eager to do this should be regarded with suspicion. If they balk at any of this, walk away. 
Be assertive, the admissions people at these schools are trained to use something called the sales process. Instructors are told to be careful not to interrupt the sales process when they bring students to the classroom to tour the place. As the prospective customer, your goal is to do exactly that and keep them off balance the entire time you're there. Always be polite, but very firm. This puts you in control of the sales decision. Schools that charge a lot really don't like it when prospective customers know what they want and are not afraid to demand it.

Look At The Education Contract

Lastly, Realize that there are many schools in San Diego, and never agree to sign anything until you've had at least 24 hours to look over the fine print. The expensive schools REALLY don't like this. Their goal is to get you to feel intimidated and rush you to judgment so you'll sign the loan papers and get in hock for a few grand. Most people are far less likely to back out of an agreement like this once the papers are signed, and the admissions people at these schools count on it.

Alan Danor later revealed his true name to be Robert Donovan. He said about the school he used to work at, "finally, after nearly a year, School Z has finally updated the texts to the current A+ exams. They have not purchased any new lab equipment nor updated the Linux text at all since my last post."

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