The burgeoning student-loan defaults dragging down the Higher Education Assistance Foundation are bringing needed attention to questions of quality in trade-school education. U.S. Education Secretary Lauro Cavazos, noting recently that more than 30 percent of all defaulted loans went to borrowers enrolled at fewer than 1 percent of the nation's 10,000 post-secondary schools, targeted 89 schools with the worst default rates, calling for closer scrutiny of their operations. Twenty-eight closed down.
Such scrutiny is long overdue. Studies of post-high-school vocational education have illuminated two primary reasons for defaults. Many of the ex-students don't have jobs that enable them to repay the loans, but many others are simply so disappointed with the instruction received that they refuse to pay for it.
Trade school operators often cite the excellent proprietary academies and technical and business institutes around the country. They note with pride their accreditation by agencies with prestigious names: the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training, the Association of Independent Colleges and Schools, the National Association of Trade and Technical Schools. But such agencies have also come under fire.