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The Sales Dynamics in Private Career College Admissions

  • 8 mins

Background

In recent years, private career colleges (PCC) have faced increasing scrutiny due to a range of issues, from operating diploma mills to failing to provide guaranteed student housing. If you haven’t already seen it, Momentum recently released a comprehensive report documenting systemic issues within Alberta’s for-profit private career colleges. My previous post on this matter provided a general overview, prompting me to delve deeper into how private career colleges approach student recruitment.

 

Last year, Global News investigated this issue, shedding light on the manipulation and deception involved in the recruitment process at PCCs. With many of these 1-2 year diploma courses costing between $21,000 to $25,000 for domestic students and even higher for international students, the recruitment process plays a crucial role in the industry. Some students are paying up to $42,000 for a 17-month diploma.

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BC's Recommendations

This is not to suggest that all PCCs are inherently problematic, but there have been ample reports of fraud, deception, and misinformation, warranting thorough investigation. In 2015, British Columbia conducted its own investigation into PCCs, resulting in several recommendations. Among these recommendations was the provision of clear and accessible information to students. According to their 2021 news release, 34 out of 36 recommendations were implemented.

 

The one recommendation that was not adhered to involved disclosing post-graduation outcomes to enable students to make informed decisions. This likely includes accurately posting post-graduation employment rates and starting salaries. Upon reviewing various PCC websites, it appears that some programs list anticipated salaries from PayScale Canada, while others provide no post-graduation statistics. It remains uncertain whether PCCs in Alberta will be required to adhere to similar guidelines.

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Alberta's Regulations

Currently, PCC in Alberta are mandated to submit a government report detailing training-related employment (job placement) rates for graduates. However, it remains unclear whether these employment rates are required to be publicly posted on their websites. The Alberta Vocational Training Act and Regulation document outline basic policies, such as registration fee caps and rules regarding refunds, though it lacks comprehensive regulation guidelines.

 

Education is considered a public good, and as a society, efforts should be made to reduce barriers to entry and access. Privatization, unfortunately, introduces higher overhead costs, resulting in increased financial burden on students. This issue becomes more problematic when there is insufficient oversight and a profit motive to recruit as many students as possible. Seeking deeper insight into the recruitment process, I opted for a consultation with an advisor at a PCC.

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Sales Pitch

Upon requesting more information from the website, I promptly received a call from a recruitment/sales representative. They inquired about my interests and educational background. Assuming the role of someone without an educational background, I observed the pitch. Immediately, I was offered discounts, rapid sign-up fee reductions, assurances of loan and grant eligibility, and even a free laptop.

 

While the free laptop was an intriguing incentive, it proved to be a clever marketing ploy. Subsequently, they followed up with an email containing additional information. Over the next few days, they made two follow-up calls to ensure I comprehended the email and to address any lingering questions.

 

I was taken aback by the prompt replies, but something felt off. The entire interaction resembled buying a car rather than investing in my education. While it wasn't overtly pressured like a sales tactic, it could be perceived that way, especially by individuals in desperate situations or those susceptible to social manipulation. If you're willing to pay a bit more for better service, that might be acceptable, but the problem lies in receiving subpar education at most private career colleges (PCCs).

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Job Posting

The reason PCC enrollment advisors/salespeople operate differently from their counterparts in public institutions is due to uncapped commissions, coupled with various other profit-driven motives and a lack of oversight. To illustrate this, I've come across two different job postings—one from a PCC and one from a public post-secondary institution. I've summarized their key descriptions and requirements for a comparison.

Regular Enrolment Services Advisor (Public)

JOB SUMMARY

This role guides students on admission, registration, fees, loans, awards, exams, transcripts, and convocation. The position, with a team, enforces university policies, regulations, and ensures academic support for student success.

Position: Admissions Sales Specialist (Private)

JOB SUMMARY

This role oversees all aspects of admissions, recruitment and financial aid as well as directs the admissions process from inquiry through enrollment and student retention.

POSITION DESCRIPTION

Utilize the university calendar for advising on admission, enrollment, fees, financial aid, and awards. Provide quality service, contribute to a supportive team, and identify service improvements. Troubleshoot student course registration, follow procedures for appeals, and handle financial account inquiries. Advise on government student loans, collaborating with specialists or agencies when needed to address funding eligibility and account changes.


Fee Assessment, Collection & Student Record Administration

  • Accurately handle administrative fees and student payments at the University of Calgary.
  • Ensure daily balancing, reconciliation, and compliance with financial audit guidelines.
  • Identify and correct errors in financial transactions.
  • Generate and distribute student records (academic transcripts) upon request.

Administrative Support

  • Support Synergize document management system.
  • Collect department statistics.
  • Accurately process and file student registration documents electronically.

POSITION DESCRIPTION

Join our evolving Admissions team! We're seeking an ambitious, ethical, and results-oriented professional with proven sales performance to support enrollment growth. Reporting to designated Admission Heads, the ADOA promotes and sells school programs, ensures compliance with regulatory requirements, and exceeds monthly enrollment targets. Responsibilities include prospect engagement, partnership recruitment, and contributing to revenue growth. The position collaborates closely with campus financial staff.

  • Collaborate on effective strategies for attracting diverse prospective students.
  • Support marketing and communication for institution visibility and reputation.
  • Build strong relationships with prospective students, conducting informational sessions.
  • Plan and execute recruitment events, such as college fairs and open houses.
  • Review applications for eligibility and admission
  • Achieve sales targets through effective communication and follow-up.
  • Stay updated on industry trends and best practices in admissions and enrollment management.
  • Maintain accurate records and demonstrate excellent interpersonal, oral, and written communication skills.

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Required: Post-secondary credential in a related field; preference for a bachelor's degree or higher.
  • Minimum 3 years advisory experience, demonstrating judgment in the role.
  • Minimum 1 year experience in a post-secondary registrar's office.
  • Experience in a high-volume environment, utilizing Peoplesoft or similar systems.
  • Familiarity with calendar regulations, call center/CRM technology, and financial account troubleshooting.
  • Strong communication skills, ability to handle complex inquiries, and proficiency in Microsoft Office.
  • Quick adaptation to new technologies and effective stress management in a demanding environment.

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Minimum: 2 years of sales performance history or record
  • Professional sales training or education
  • Desired: Previous experience in education sales or private college admissions or B2C sales or telemarketing
  • At least a Bachelor’s degree
  • Passion for higher education and genuine desire to help students succeed.
  • Strong persuasive skills to convey the value of our institution and programs.
  • Superb verbal communication skills and confident phone presence.
  • Capacity to make a high volume of daily reach-outs (80-150) with a positive attitude.
  • Resilience in managing rejections and turning them into opportunities.
  • Familiarity with CRM systems or call management software is a plus.
  Additional Compensation: 2% Uncapped Commission

Breakdown

Unfortunately, this isn't the only PCC with admission specialist roles like this one. Virtually all of them approach recruitment with a sales perspective, involving high-volume reach-outs. This no longer resembles an advisor role; it's essentially a telemarketing and call center position. Compounding the situation, there are referral bonuses for students. Academy of Learning Career College, for instance, offers a $500 referral bonus for every friend they sign up.

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Filing Complaints

There is a process available for submitting a complaint about a PCC, but it is a lengthy one that necessitates the cooperation of the PCC. Additionally, the complaint must be filed within six months from the last date you attended your program, and you must possess a written copy of your college's decision pertaining to your complaint.

 

If the college fails to respond to your complaints, your efforts to seek recourse may encounter delays.

 

For students who have faced difficulties filing a complaint, reaching out to Momentum might be a viable option. Momentum Calgary, a non-profit organization, specializes in assisting Calgarians with financial literacy, small business support, and professional development. They have actively raised awareness about this issue and advocated for students, potentially providing assistance to some with their complaints.

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