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Attention Students: Before Enrolling In A School Or Taking Out Loans, Check Out This Database

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New data from the Department of Education shows that students at hundreds of for-profit certificate and degree programs around the country end up earning the equivalent of less than the federal minimum wage after they graduate, even at programs that carry the possibility of tens of thousands of dollars in student debt.

The data, released as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to develop a ‘debt to earnings’ ratio for individual colleges and universities under its College Scorecard initiative, also serves to highlight the value of more affordable community college programs. Students who complete professional certificates at for-profit institutions, for example, earn an average of $9,000 less than those who get similar degrees at community colleges.

In particular, the dataset sheds light on dozens of storefront colleges in South Florida with generic names like “Advance Science Institute” and “Florida Career College.” 

WLRN combined the new earnings data with geographic information and figures on how much debt the "median" or middle-of-the-road student takes on to give you a financial snapshot of  programs around the country. If you're thinking of enrolling in a professional program or taking out loans to go back to school, we hope this database can inform your search:

According to federal data, career training programs in Cosmetology or Skin Care don’t often lead to stable employment. But even for high-demand jobs like medical records technicians or nurse’s assistants, many of these for-profit, or so-called “proprietary” schools churn out expensive degrees that are a dead end on employment.

An associate’s degree in Health Information at the College of Business and Technology in Hialeah costs more than $35,000. But the median earnings for graduates of that program are $12,000 a year, less than you’d make working full-time at the Burger King on the same block.

Nursing assistants trained at the Florida Education Institute don’t do much better: their median earnings are just over $13,000—still less than a year’s pay at federal minimum wage.

Many of these schools share a heavy reliance on federally-funded student loans and accreditation by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). The Department of Education is currently trying to terminate ACICS for failing to correct illegal practices at now-defunct chains like ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges.

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