First let me say that The Healing Arts Center in St. Louis, Missouri is not a vocational school. We are what is called in the educational world a "propriety school" because we specialize in massage therapy training and we do it very, very well. We do not teach bar tending or cosmetology. We train healers.
Fly-by-night vocational education is a national disaster. Diploma mills have enslaved tens of thousands of already at risk people with student debt that will take them down. In our industry, massage therapy, the diploma mills have churned out 750,000 diplomas since 1998 and yet only 180,000 students ever made it to licensure. That's only 24%. At The Healing Arts Center, our licensure rates are three times the national average and our graduates are sought after by the industry.
The problem with vocational mills is that they have tarnished the name of all schools who teach trades. They located themselves near public transportation stops to make exploiting the poor even more efficient. They accepted students who were functionally illiterate and then loaded them with Title IV student debt knowing from the beginning that many of these people would never see daylight in the career for which they were training.
Currently, there is a national shortage of massage therapists that it threatening to collapse the industry. Nearly every spa, salon and hospital looking for licensed massage therapists is reporting an extreme shortage. Massage Envy, for example, reports and immediate need for 200 massage therapist right now in the St. Louis region alone and is losing customers left and right because they cannot meet the demand for services. The starting pay for an LMT at Massge Envy in St. Louis is $15 per hour with tips that average $12 per hour, for an effective wage of $27 per hour. It is a great place to start a career. Once an LMT gets some experience in a franchise operation they are qualified to move up the ladder to high-end spas and medical facilities.
It takes 600 hours of training to get a license in Missouri, but you have to be able to read and comprehend science. LMT training requires two levels of anatomy and physiology and the MBLex, the test for licensure, poses questions using medical terminology. While one does not need a college degree to be an LMT, one does have to be capable of real academic study.
The real burden for proprietary schools is to separate themselves from these fly-by-night vocational schools. We have an entrance exam, for example to filter out students who cannot read medical textbooks and do not possess basic critical thinking skills. And yet, in the public eye, we run the risk of appearing to be similar to the diploma mills because we are not a four year college. Even four year colleges can be accused of churning student loans and producing graduates who are unemployable.
The lack of academic scruples at some schools has created the much feared "student loan bubble" that is suspected to be the next big financial crisis in America. Because billions of dollars of student loans where offered to people who have no ability to pay them back, a fiscal disaster is in the making and at some point it must explode. In the meantime, innocent educational companies are at risk for being taken down with the crooks and students who do not want careers that require four years of college and even more debt, will soon have no place to go despite good paying jobs being only 600 hours of training away.
For The Healing Arts Center, are focus will remain on healing. We provide this training not only for those seeking a career in massage therapy, but for those looking to be adept a naturopathy and even simply the health and well being of one's own family. The point is that we stand for wellness and personal transformation and deliver exactly that to every student that comes through our doors.
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