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extremely unusual; 90 percent of all people working in this field make less than $40,000 a year, according to the BLS.

Program Duration and Cost

Representatives from nine colleges gave our undercover applicants deceptive or otherwise questionable information about the duration or cost of their colleges’ programs. According to federal regulations, a college may not substantially misrepresent the total cost of an academic program. Representatives at these colleges used two different methods to calculate program duration and cost of attendance. Colleges described the duration of the program as if students would attend classes for 12 months per year, but reported the annual cost of attendance for only 9 months of classes per year. This disguises the program’s total cost. Examples include:

A representative at one college said it would take 3.5–4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree by taking classes year round, but quoted the applicant an annual cost for attending classes for 9 months of the year. She did not explain that attending classes for only 9 months out of the year would require an additional year to complete the program. If the applicant did complete the degree in 4 years, the annual cost would be higher than quoted to reflect the extra class time required per year.

At another college, the representative quoted our undercover applicant an annual cost of around $12,000 per year and said it would take 2 years to graduate without breaks, but when asked about the total cost, the representative told our undercover applicant it would cost $30,000 to complete the program—equivalent to more than two and a half years of the previously quoted amount. If the undercover applicant had not inquired about the total cost of the program, she would have been led to believe that the total cost to obtain the associate’s degree would have been $24,000.

Eleven colleges denied undercover applicants access to their financial aid eligibility or provided questionable financial advice. According to federal statutes and regulations, colleges must make information on financial assistance programs available to all current and prospective students.

Six colleges in four states told our undercover applicants that they could not speak with financial aid representatives or find out what grants and loans they were eligible to receive until they completed the college’s enrollment forms agreeing to become a student and paid a small application fee to enroll.

Financial Aid

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