Resources for Students
We license and regulate more than 300 private career schools in Washington, focusing on programs that lead to certificates and diplomas. We also provide consumer protection to students by investigating student complaints and administering funds that reimburse students affected by school closure.
*We ONLY hold transcripts from closed schools located in WASHINGTON STATE!*
Choose a Licensed School
The Workforce Board licenses private career schools that do business in Washington. Many of these schools and programs can fall under joint jurisdiction with other state agencies. Click here for a list of schools with up-to-date licenses.
Before enrolling, you should make sure you’re likely to get a good return on the money you spend, and the effort you put into completing coursework. This may mean gathering information about the job market, identifying the type of work you want to do after you complete the program, and looking closely at the school– its programs, its staff, and its job placement rate– to ensure it helps you get where you want to be.
The bottom line is – do your homework before you enroll. If you have already picked a school, be sure to retain important records. Make sure you read and keep a copy of your enrollment agreement and any other papers you sign. Also keep a copy of the receipt for any payments you make. These are important records for you to hold onto and store in a safe place. They can help you make your case for getting money back should a school close suddenly while you are part way through your program or if you have a complaint.
The following questions can help you identify a quality school:
Is the school licensed?
Private vocational schools must be licensed in Washington. If they are not, certain consumer protections might not apply. If you are looking at a private, vocational school, make sure they’re on the Workforce Board’s list of licensed schools. Schools that grant degrees must be authorized to do so by the Washington Student Achievement Council. Cosmetology and barbering schools must be licensed by the state’s Department of Licensing.
What percentage of the school’s graduates find jobs?
When data is available, the Workforce Board provides performance results through www.CareerBridge.wa.gov. One performance measure is employment: how many of a program’s graduates land jobs? You can also find out how much recent graduates earned and what percentage were able to complete an individual education program. About half of the 6,000-plus programs on Career Bridge have these performance results available. When searching for an education program, check the box that says “Programs with Performance Results” in the Find Education section of the site.
How does the Workforce Board do this calculation?
The Workforce Board measures the performance of individual private career school programs through the state’s Eligible Training Provider list. This list is required by the U.S. Department of Labor and shows which programs meet certain performance standards, including the percentage of students who land jobs, how much they earn after graduating, and whether they complete a program. Schools whose programs meet these minimum thresholds are eligible for federal training dollars. Because this is done on a program-by-program basis, schools can have several programs that are on the Eligible Training Provider list, and others that do not meet these standards, and are not on the list. When data is available, you can find performance results for thousands of individual education programs at www.careerbridge.wa.gov.
What percentage of students complete their program of study?
If a high percentage of students drop out, is it because the program did not meet their expectations, or are they able to find jobs before they complete formal training?
Do you need a state license to practice your chosen occupation?
Some professions require a state license for you to operate. You should learn what the state licensing requirements for an occupation are before talking to a school. Check with the Master License Service, Washington State Department of Licensing, P.O. Box 48001, Olympia, WA 98504-8001, 360.753.4401. If a certain level of education or training is required, ask if the school ’s program meets those requirements.
Is the school accredited?
Accreditation helps ensure a basic level of quality through peer evaluation of schools and programs. Private educational associations of regional or national scope have adopted criteria reflecting the qualities of a sound educational program. And they have developed procedures for evaluating institutions or programs to determine whether they meet those criteria. More information on accreditation.
Are the school’s facilities and equipment up to date?
Ask to sit in on a class and/or take a tour of the school. Most schools will be happy to show off their facilities, equipment, and instructors.
Are industry members involved in providing guidance to the school or program through an advisory committee?
Ask for a list of the names and contact information for this advisory committee. Check with these individuals to determine how often the advisory committee meets and how much influence they have on the program. When talking to these people, remember they are prospective employers!
Have you considered all costs?
There may be many costs, such as books, student fees, or equipment fees, in addition to tuition.
What is the school’s refund policy?
There can be significant differences between refund policies at public and private institutions.
Where do I find information about student loans?
The state’s Department of Financial Institutions provides important information on how to successfully manage student loans.
Are schools required to provide loan information?
Washington’s private career schools must now provide their students with loan information each time they are offered a new or revise a federal student loan, or a private loan certified by the school. Read our handout for more details.
Closed School Transcript Request
The Workforce Board holds transcripts from many of Washington’s closed private career schools. Former students may request copies free of charge. Click here to request your transcript.
Next Steps after a School Closure
What You Should Know if Your School Closes
If your Washington state school should close without notice, please call our office as soon as possible – (360) 709-4600. A licensed private vocational school may close for any number of reasons. However, by regulation, a school must give its students and our office at least three days notice (WAC 490-105-210) and is responsible for protecting the contractual rights of present and former students. This does not always happen.
In all closures, our goal is to make certain that students’ needs are addressed. The information below will give you a general idea of your options in the event of this unfortunate circumstance.
- Teach-out – This term refers to the continuation of instruction to complete the program or course, when a school’s license has been revoked or when a school advises the Board that it intends to discontinue operations. Workforce Board staff will attempt to facilitate teach-out arrangements at a similar licensed private vocational school.
- Transfer – Students may make their own arrangements for the continuation of their education at another school in the event of a school closure.
- Loan Forgiveness – If you received a student loan through the U.S. Department of Education, you may qualify for loan discharge under certain circumstances. Please contact those agencies directly by finding their information here. For all federal student loans, contact your loan servicer.
The Workforce Board does not administer loan programs or process requests for loan forgiveness.
Tuition Recovery Trust Fund – All licensed private vocational schools pay into a tuition recovery trust fund. The fund’s purpose is to pay pro-rata refunds to students who paid their tuition in advance and were unable to complete their training due to the closure of their schools.
Specific Closed School Information – Even under the best of circumstances, it will take time to process resolutions for every student affected by an abrupt school closure. You should take the time to locate any documents that might substantiate your completion of coursework (transcripts, exams, invoice for payment of tuition, etc.) and prepare to make them available to Workforce Board staff if needed. You may call our office to obtain periodic updates regarding your claim against the tuition recovery trust fund.
You should also know that of the approximately 280 private licensed schools within Washington, roughly 30 of them close every year. There is no way to tell for sure which schools will close, but our Board takes every permissible action by statute and regulation to monitor and assist licensed schools so that abrupt closures are avoided. One of the primary functions of the Private Vocational School Unit is to provide consumer protection, a responsibility it takes very seriously. We will make every effort to provide the assistance students need to complete their education in the event of a school closure, and ultimately, get started in their chosen occupations.
Click here for detailed instructions to submit a school complaint through the online student complaint portal. Please review these instructions carefully before starting to complete the complaint form. It is designed to help you organize facts and define your concerns so the Workforce Board can assist you in resolving your grievance against a private career school.