The Federal Trade Commission has voted to update its Vocational Schools Guides -- renamed the Guides for Private Vocational and Distance Education Schools. The Commission added a provision to the Guides to address misrepresentations about the availability of employment after a student completes training or the success of a school in placing its graduates in jobs. In addition, the Guides have been streamlined and re-written so they are more easily understood.
As part of the Commission's ongoing review of all of its rules and guides, the agency published a request for comments about the Vocational Schools Guides on April 3, 1996. The Guides, first adopted in 1972, address claims that might be made by proprietary businesses offering vocational training courses, either on the school's premises or through correspondence or another long-distance method, and how such businesses can avoid unfair or deceptive advertising and promotional practices when recruiting and enrolling students. The FTC sought information about the costs and benefits of the Guides and their regulatory and economic impact. On April 23, 1997, the FTC announced its decision to retain the Guides and sought additional comment on proposed modifications to address claims about employment and placement success. The Commission observed that while the Department of Education, which administers most student loan and grant money for vocational training, plays the primary role in addressing problems in this industry, there is an important, concurrent role for the FTC, which monitors and addresses deceptive promotional practices in many industries.
The update to the Guides, which will become effective 30 days after publication in today's Federal Register, states that: "It is deceptive for an industry member ... to misrepresent ... through the use of text, images, endorsements, or by other means, the availability of employment after graduation from a course of training, the success that the member's graduates have realized in obtaining such employment, or the salary that the member's graduates will receive in such employment." In addition, to streamline the Guides, the Commission has eliminated redundancies and deleted provisions that were not specific to vocational schools but merely duplicated other general provisions of law.
The Commission vote to approve the amendments was 3-1, with Commissioner Orson Swindle dissenting. In a separate statement, Commissioner Swindle said, "I have voted against the Guides for two reasons. The first is that the Guides are not likely to promote voluntary compliance because they do not resolve any demonstrated uncertainty among private vocational schools over what claims are likely to be considered deceptive. The other reason is that any need for Commission action would be largely eliminated if other government regulations and private oversight schemes were more actively enforced."
Copies of the full text of the Federal Register notice and Commissioner Swindle's statement are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC File No. P964220)