Vocational and Proprietary Schools


Vocational schools enable prospective students to acquire the skills and training necessary to change, enhance or establish a career. In an effort to help consumers find the best vocational school for their needs, the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York conducted a survey of 67 vocational schools located in Long Island, Westchester County and New York City. The BBB's survey examines some of the most important characteristics to consider when choosing a vocational school, such as admission requirements, cost of tuition, available programs, class schedules, student services, internship programs, financial aid availability and other critical information.

Admission Requirements
Once you have determined the type of program you seek and have a list of schools which offer those programs, you should determine if you meet the necessary admission requirements. The majority of schools surveyed either require a high school diploma or GED Certificate. However, some schools will waive those requirements if you pass their entrance exam.

Attending a vocational school requires serious financial commitment. In the BBB's survey, it costs an average of $4,700, to complete a vocational school program. While the amount you pay to attend a school is an important consideration in determining its value, it is not the sole indicator of the best school. An inexpensive school may not be the best deal for your needs; likewise, a very expensive school does not guarantee you the best education. Students should also remember that loans issued from the school or from other sources must be repaid, whether or not you complete the program or find the classes to be worthwhile. Therefore, students should not consider a school free simply because they are not paying anything at the time they are attending classes; they are, in reality, spending their own money and should consider it as such.

Financial Assistance
Find out if the school offers financial assistance such as scholarships, loans, grants and work study. Over 60% of the schools surveyed offer financial assistance. Most assistance granted is based upon the student's financial need; however, some assistance, such as scholarships, may be based upon merit, or a combination of both need and merit.

Scholarships and grants are the best ways to fund your education, because unlike loans, they do not need to be repaid. The Federal government makes funds available to students through programs such as the Pell Grant and the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant. In order to determine eligibility for these grants, students are required to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In addition, New York State residents may qualify for a state grant called the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). An application is also required for TAP. Factors that affect the qualifications for federal and/or state grants include: tuition and other expenses; attendance, whether full time or part time; family contribution; and length of program.

The federal government allows students to supplement the costs of their education through student loans. These loans can be obtained through a lender - bank or credit union - and may be subsidized or unsubsidized. With a subsidized loan, interest is paid on the loan by the federal government while the student is in school and throughout the grace period. An unsubsidized loan requires the student to pay the interest while attending school. Payments for both subsidized and unsubsidized loans start six months after the student's last day of class. Like loans from the school, loans from the government must be repaid even if you are not satisfied with, or do not complete the program.

Another method of financial assistance is the Federal Work Study Program, which allows students to earn money for school by working on campus or for a community organization. Students are paid the current minimum wage or more. The total work study award depends on the student's financial need and the school's funding. Students should be aware that they cannot earn more than their total Work Study award.

The BBB advises consumers to discuss speak to the school's financial aid officer before enrollment to determine the total aid you will receive.

Scholarship Matching Services
When determining how you will fund your education be wary of scholarship matching services. These organizations promise to assist students by matching them with potential sources of little-known funds from private organizations for a processing fee ranging anywhere from $49.95 to hundreds of dollars. Better Business Bureau experience with scholarship matching services has shown that although students may receive "potential" sources of aid, few, if any, receive actual funds. Many consumers have claimed that they were not eligible for the scholarships offered. In addition, consumers often indicate that they were unable to obtain refunds of their fee, as promised. Typically, companies require that students supply rejection notices in order to receive refunds. However, students complain that while they send in their application forms, they often receive no notice when rejected. Consumers should be aware that there are alternatives available regarding financial aid research, such as hhigh school guidance counselors, the public library and the financial aid office of the school under consideration.

Graduation Rate
In the BBB's survey, we observed that graduation rates were, on average, 80%. A low graduation rate may be the result of a poor program or a school that does not fairly evaluate student ability during the admissions process.

Class Size
As students are more likely to receive individualized attention, smaller classes are normally considered to be a better choice than larger classes. The BBB's survey found the average class room size is approximately 17 students. However, if the quality of education is up to par, the class size may not be a major factor. In addition to class size, students should inquire about the availability of tutors or guidance counselors. Although it is not required for schools to offer such services, it can enhance the quality of education you receive.

Career Preparation
Job training is an important asset for you to have upon graduation. Internships and externships offer students the ability to apply what they have learned and experienced in the classroom to the business world. However, not all schools offer students such programs. Only about 43% of the schools surveyed offered this service.

Job Placement
According to the survey, about 90% of schools offer job placement. When comparing job placement programs you should consider several aspects such as the percentage of graduates working in the field, if the school hosts job fairs, and if the school assists with your resume and interview skills.

Class Time Availability
As many people work full or part-time while attending school, when classes are held can be very important. Make sure the class time and semester schedule corresponds with your availability. While almost all the schools surveyed offer classes during the day and evening, very few schools offer classes on weekends.

Refunds and Cancellations
New York State law allows students to receive a tuition refund during any term or quarter in which they are enrolled in a trade, vocational or correspondence school. Refunds must be paid within 45 days of the date on which the student withdrew. The amount of the refund is determined by the last day of the student's attendance and length of semester.

A. If the first term or quarter is 14 weeks or less:

Student Withdraws The School Must Give
First week 100% refund
Second week 75% refund
Third week 50% refund
Fourth week 25% refund
Fifth week 0% refund


B. If the first term or quarter is 15 weeks or longer:

Student Withdraws The School Must Give
First week 100% refund
Second week 80% refund
Third week 65% refund
Fourth week 50% refund
Fifth week 30% refund
Sixth week and later 0% refund

C. If the second term or quarter is 14 weeks or less:

Student Withdraws The School Must Give
First week 75% refund
Second week 50% refund
Third week 25% refund
Fourth week 0% refund


D. If the second term or quarter is 15 weeks or longer:

Student Withdraws The School Must Give
First week 80% refund
Second week 65% refund
Third week 50% refund
Fourth week and later 0% refund


Refunds for later terms or quarters are calculated according to the second term refund schedule listed immediately above.

Where to Get Information and Help

Visit BBB to view a business profile or to search for an Accredited Businesses and Charities

If the school charges more than $300 tuition, consumers can also contact the New York Department of Education at (518) 474-3969 to ensure that the school is properly licensed, and to see if the school has been the subject of any enforcement actions from the Department of Education.

A Final Note
Attending a vocational school is an investment in yourself. The cost of this investment will be a substantial amount of both your time and money. So before you make the investment, investigate each school and its programs to be sure the school you choose is the best one for you.