Another Reason to Reconsider an Online Paralegal Education

Sometimes I get email from readers asking if I recommend online paralegal training programs, Kaplan in particular. I personally don’t know any Kaplan-trained paralegals, certainly not locally. Occasionally, I see posts by alleged Kaplan students on the national paralegal listservs, complaining about their inability to get hired, posts that would give me serious pause if I were considering an online paralegal education. To be absolutely fair, a lot of new graduates are having difficulty getting hired these days.

Seeking Desperate Students

I always suggest that potential students do their homework before making a commitment and signing a tuition payment plan for any program. However, a recent in-depth feature article published by the Gainesville Sun, which explores Kaplan’s legal troubles in detail, does not make me want to recommend Kaplan’s online program. It makes me want to say, “RUN, don’t walk, AWAY from Kaplan.”

A major cause of concern is a 2009 Department of Education finding that “only 28 percent of Kaplan’s students were repaying their student loans.” The school is also one of eight for-profit colleges under investigation by the Florida Attorney General’s office “for alleged misrepresentation of financial aid and deceptive practices regarding recruitment, enrollment, accreditation, placement and graduation rates.” Former recruiters allege that at one time a Kaplan training manual profiled ideal prospective students as being low in self-esteem, dependent on welfare, fired or laid off – or abused.

Seriously. Yikes.

But when a former dean of a Kaplan paralegal studies program, Ben Wilcox, is a plaintiff in a whistle blower lawsuit “that accuses Kaplan of defrauding taxpayers of hundreds of millions in student financial aid,” prospective students need to be concerned. Although Kaplan has accused Wilcox of hacking into its computer system and those criminal charges are pending, his take on the school’s educational priorities seems consistent with what other employees and students interviewed for the article said:

“They’ll tell you all sorts of terrible things about me,” Mr. Wilcox said, adding that Kaplan is intent on discrediting him because of his access to incriminating evidence. “But the bottom line is that Kaplan is a cold-hearted scam to make money by taking student loans from the government, and leaving students with debt that they’ll never be able to pay off.”

Even stranger, despite the bitter conflict between Wilcox and Kaplan, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Kaplan continued to use a four-year old “welcome video” featuring Wilcox on a company website until June of this year.

Are Local Employers Hiring from Online Programs?

The shocking media exposes of for-profit online colleges I’ve read in the last year or so are one of the many reasons I’ve never turned on the advertising feature for this blogging platform. I will not support banner ads or any other type of advertising for educational programs that I can’t 100% in good conscience recommend to Practical Paralegalism readers.

My advice to prospective paralegal students who want to get their education online? Take another look at your local paralegal programs. Talk to area attorneys and members of your closest paralegal associations about the educational programs local employers prefer.

In this economy, no paralegal graduate is guaranteed a job, but to graduate from a program that local employers won’t hire from and don’t hold in high regard is going to dramatically increase your chances of being one of those online paralegal program graduates who can’t get a decent job in the legal field – or repay their staggering student loan debts.

Sources: The Chronicle of Higher Education; universitybusiness.com; The Gainesville Sun

Related Posts: Do Your Homework Before Enrolling in a For-Profit Paralegal Program; Fear of an Overpriced Paralegal Degree; Using Social Media; Today It Takes a Village to Succeed in the Paralegal Profession

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