Preying on Paralegals?
While Congress has been sinking its collective teeth into the pro-profit school sector, including those providing paralegal certification or paralegal certificate qualifications, the question does arise as to whether paralegals are being ‘preyed upon’ by some school programs.
One of the Congressional witnesses, Dr. Sandy Baum, who is a George Washington University education professor said to Congress that for-profit colleges are causing a “severe problem for students accumulating unmanageable amounts of debt.”
She showed figures that indicated average total loan debt for associate’s degree students at public two-year institutions is $10,100 versus $19,700 for those at for-profit colleges.
“Debt for students at for-profit colleges is off the charts,” said Pauline Abernathy, who is a vice president of The Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit college.
Referring to the high default rates, Abernathy said, “Combine these rates with aggressive recruiting, low completion rates … and you have a truly toxic mix.”
Eric Schmitt, a former student at Kaplan University, one of the larger for-profit college chains, testified that he graduated with both an associate’s degree as well as a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies but never landed a job as a paralegal.
Despite being assured that “100 percent” of students from the school’s paralegal program got placed, Schmitt says he knows of only about three or four students out of two or three dozen who got placed in paralegal jobs.
Schmitt was highly critical of his paralegal certification promises, which did not result in work as expected and promised, but rather lead to him going to Concord University, which is an online law school and he eventually landed a job at a law office.
“I cannot say that even once my degree has opened any door of employment,” Schmitt said.
However, Kaplan officials were on hand at the hearing to release a statement that dismissed Schmitt’s portrayal of his Kaplan experience as “not an accurate reflection” and said that Schmitt reported to Kaplan that he found his externship “very beneficial.”
And so the questions remain . . how beneficial are some of these paralegal courses and schools? Are they over-promoted to those seeking paralegal certification or some other paralegal qualification or career opportunity?