Does “let the buyer beware” apply to picking a school?

When students take action against their schools, “individual responsibility” is usually the school’s first line of defense.  “If the students had only looked more carefully, thwouldn’t have this problem.”  It’s a real defense, especially these days when people think there are too many lawsuits (until it’s one of them who has been harmed).  In my posting titled “Questions to ask before enrolling in a trade school,” I have written about some things students can do to try and check up on what they are being told. 

But, think about this defense for a minute.  The school is supposed to be the expert in the field.  The recruiter is giving out information based on this expertise to the would-be student.  The student likes what he or she is hearing, and the school then seems to deliver on it by arranging for the student to get a loan.  Can the school really then say, well, you should have done your own due diligence instead of relying on what we told you?  Isn’t that like Otter’s famous line in Animal House, “You screwed up, you trusted us!” 

What about the student’s responsibility once he or she has enrolled?  Schools like to ask, “If it wasn’t what you thought it would be, why didn’t you drop out?”  Here, there is often a different problem.  Refund policies are often front-loaded; by the time the student figures out what’s up, the only refund they can get is disproportionately small.  And, they can reasonably believe that if they have spent a lot of money on tuition to date, they should spend the full amount to get the degree or diploma – otherwise, it’s all wasted. 

Schools need to be responsible about the information they give, and students need to be responsible about what they do with that information.  It goes both ways.

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