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The statements and opinions contained in the articles on the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine's (AAAOM) Practitioner's Forum are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the AAAOM. The appearance of advertisements in the AAAOM’s publications are not a warranty, endorsement or approval of the products or their safety. The AAAOM disclaims responsibility for any loss, injury or damage to persons or property resulting from any ideas or products referred to in any article or advertisement. Readers are advised to verify any information on which they choose to rely. 


15 Acupuncture Schools with Failing Programs in the 2017 Official Gainful Employment List

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  • 16 Mar 2017 2:01 PM
    Message # 4671064
    AAAOM Admin (Administrator)

    Fifteen acupuncture schools (~25% of all acupuncture schools) made the final and official Gainful Employment list of schools with failing/zone programs in January 2017. There were only two schools – PCOM and Emperors – on the list in November 2016. Why did this total jump by 700% in two months? The most likely reason is these schools were finding it difficult to provide the US Education Department with the information required to evaluate their graduates’ outcomes in being able to pay down their student loans with the incomes they were NOT earning. In other words, they probably waited long as possible to delay the inevitable judgment. You can read more about the federal Gainful Employment program here: https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/education-department-releases-final-debt-earnings-rates-gainful-employment-programs


    Here is another link from Inside Higher Education about the Gainful Employment program and implications for 800 vocational schools on the GE list. Here is the list of acupuncture schools on the list.


    • Acupuncture and Massage College in Miami FL
    • American Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Roseville MN
    • American College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine in Houston TX
    • AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine in Austin TX
    • Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Denver CO
    • East West College of Natural Medicine in Sarasota FL
    • Emperors College of Traditional Oriental Medicine in Santa Monica CA
    • Florida College of Integrative Medicine in Orlando FL
    • Midwest College of Oriental Medicine in Racine WI
    • Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego CA (listed twice)
    • Phoenix Institute of Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture in Phoenix AZ
    • Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine in Seattle WA
    • Southwest Acupuncture College in Santa Fe NM
    • Texas Health and Science University in Austin TX

    The Director of the US Education Department stated with that "These [debt to earnings] rates shed a bright light on which career training programs are most likely to prepare students for repaying their student loan debt, and which programs might leave them worse off than when they started.”  When ~25% of the acupuncture schools fail the guidelines that is a good indicator acupuncture training programs are not preparing acupuncture students to earn a living wage.


    The following is from the CCAOM website: “A recent estimate of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) indicates that the median annual income for AOM licensees is $52,000 and has been increasing. Some practitioners may earn in excess of this amount, with reported income in some instances exceeding $100,000. Variables affecting income may include the nature of your practice, geographic location, and personal factors such as your ability to relate well to patients, professional demeanor, and marketing savvy.”


    The January 2017 publication on acupuncture workforce outcomes which compared NCCAOM and California Acupuncture Board outcomes found the median income was closer to $40,000. We also found many acupuncturists leave the profession after 10 years. Here is that link https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28088258


    ACAOM is named in California action to close South Baylo University. The California regulatory agency that oversees all private vocational schools moved to pull the school’s license to operate. Evidence was provided by a group of whistleblowers who worked in senior administrative positions. Included in the complaint is item #32 which claims ACAOM approved the school to offer an unaccredited BSHS so that students could meet the bachelor degree requirement to enter the Master degree program. Thirty percent of South Baylo students qualified in this way. You can read the complaint at this link: http://www.bppe.ca.gov/enforcement/actions/southbaylo_acc.pdf


    The acupuncture schools and their membership groups have responded predictably. Twelve schools have filed a lawsuit. Their claim is that “acupuncturists’ earnings [are understated] because they often are self-employed and have business expenses, work part-time, are paid in cash, and have losses in the early years as they build a client base.” ACAOM made a similar claim in their 2015 letter to US ED asking to exclude acupuncture schools from miserable workforce outcomes. Read here about the acupuncture lawsuit as part of the greater pain felt by predatory for profit schools: https://www.republicreport.org/2017/for-profit-colleges-renew-efforts-to-destroy-key-accountability-rule/


    The actual lawsuit filing can be found here: https://www.republicreport.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/PIHMA-GE-Complaint.pdf


    Remember, the schools provided their own data for the GE outcomes and South Baylo was busted by its own leadership. Could this be the start of a reckoning?



    Steven H. Stumpf, EdD

    ADDENDUM by Steven Stumpf (as seen in the comments below):

    Dear Colleagues,

    The response to the original post has been incredible. I received a call from someone who works at one of the schools on the GE Final List [you can find the GE Final List form Jan 2017 at this link: https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/education-department-releases-final-debt-earnings-rates-gainful-employment-programs]. We talked about whether the list was "final" since his school has elected to appeal their inclusion on the list, as has each of the 12 schools that have filed a complaint with USED.

    He suggested that I look again at the Nov 2016 GE list where I would find out I was wrong about there being only TWO AOM schools on the first November 2016 list. I did look. He is correct. There are 16 AOM schools on that list. There are two less on the Jan 2017 “final” list. Tri-State had been on the Nov list but managed to have one of its two programs released from the Jan list. I extend Tri-State the same congratulations I will extend to those acu schools that win their appeal.

    The school rep explained to me that each school had to survey its grads to establish their incomes and hopefully win their appeal. Each school also had to make a cogent and persuasive argument to the USED GE folks that the income figures from their school surveys are more accurate than the government’s income figures which come from the Social Security Admin.

    While I was reviewing the Nov and Jan lists I checked what the USED had recorded as the mean and median income figures for the graduates of each of the AOM schools. You can find the Nov 2016 list here https://www.ed.gov/category/keyword/Gainful-Employment and the Jan 2017 list here https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/education-department-releases-final-debt-earnings-rates-gainful-employment-programs

    The average earnings for AOM schools on the Nov 2016 and the Jan 2017 list was $25,601. The median earnings was $23,905. In both cases one school had significantly higher earnings - like in the 30s and 50s. What do you think of these income figures? Do they seem familiar? Are the school figures compiled by the US Dept of Education more accurate or less accurate than what the school surveys found? Or what you as an acupuncturist know and believe? Findings from our workforce paper were higher: “more than 70% of acupuncturists work fewer than 40 hours weekly; approximately 76% work in solo practice or in shared space with other acupuncturists; more than 70% of the national sample have been in practice 15 years or less; and median income is between $40 000 and $50 000. A preponderance of acupuncturists is less than 50 years of age, and fewer than 15% of all respondents have been in practice more than 20 years.” Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28088258

    Our paper looked at self-report survey data collected as an adjunct to “occupational/job” analyses conducted by the California Acu Board and NCCAOM. Those data do not come close to the GE figures. I once asked an acupuncturist if he ever filled out AOM income/practice surveys? “When I’m making money I do.”

    Does this suggest the schools’ figures are more accurate than the federal USED conclusions? It would be great if the schools that are part of the complaint shared their data. We can all agree the profession needs more transparency. I hope the schools that have filed their complaint will publish their survey data outcomes.

    Sincerely,

    Steven H. Stumpf, EdD


    From Administration:

    As a reminder to our membership and forum participants, the statements and opinions contained in the articles on the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine's (AAAOM) Practitioner's Forum are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the AAAOM. The appearance of advertisements in the AAAOM’s publications are not a warranty, endorsement or approval of the products or their safety. The AAAOM disclaims responsibility for any loss, injury or damage to persons or property resulting from any ideas or products referred to in any article or advertisement. Readers are advised to verify any information on which they choose to rely. 

    We encourage you to continue the discussion around what Gainful Employment means to you and our community in the forum. Thank you for your contributions.


    Last modified: 19 Mar 2017 3:57 PM | AAAOM Admin (Administrator)
  • 17 Mar 2017 12:25 AM
    Reply # 4672458 on 4671064
    Anonymous

    While I appreciate this article, what disturbs me is the fact that our governing national groups (AAAOM AND NCCAOM)  are radio silent.  PT's and Chiro's have excellent national governing groups that represent the vocation well post graduation.  I agree that schools should be held culpable for vocational training but what about the governing groups that work to integrate vocations into mainstream care post graduation?  Yes, acupuncturists as a whole are lone wolfs but the national organizations have done nothing to unify this vocation and make apparent the need for national organization and defense of our profession while, for example, PT's and Chiro's philfer our medicine with dry needling.  Affordable quality education is important but representation post graduation is just as/if not more important.  I hear nothing from the AAAOM until this?   What really are you doing for our profession?  

  • 17 Mar 2017 12:58 AM
    Reply # 4672468 on 4671064
    Anonymous

    So does this mean tast there may be some student loan relief for those of us who have not been able to be gainfully employed after our training at one of these schools? That would be nice

  • 17 Mar 2017 3:33 AM
    Reply # 4672557 on 4671064
    Anon

    The ACAOM representation is misleading. While they are named in the suit, ACAOM has no jurisdiction to authorize a bachelors degree. They authorize the master degree. It is the State of California that has failed its jurisdictional duties upon the matter of a baccalaureate degree offering. As the document asserts, South Baylo offered the baccalaureate after the master degree.

  • 17 Mar 2017 12:22 PM
    Reply # 4673350 on 4671064
    Catherine Niemiec, JD, L.Ac.

    AOM college loan default rates are extremely low, mostly in the single digits. This means our students are able to pay back their loans. The problem is the DOE calculation which unfairly penalizes our profession and expects a certain level of earnings almost immediately after students graduate, not taking account the time spent taking certification exams, building a sole practice, or choosing to work part-time. The DOE looks at net earnings for private practice, which is affected by the tax preparer's decision to utilize as many tax deductions to reduce net income and pay less taxes. These factors are out of control of the colleges. Instead the DOE should focus on the default rates which are low for our colleges and national certification pass rates, which are fairly equal among our for profit and nonprofit AOM colleges. In addition, the DOE regulations were unfairly applied to for profit colleges only, when all colleges should be held to equal standards. Thus, we are protesting the regulation as applied, since it uses an unfair assessment process. In addition to affecting many other schools and professions which do not use "predatory recruitment practices" the effect of these laws will damage the profession, their colleges, and the communities which depend on them.

  • 17 Mar 2017 12:23 PM
    Reply # 4673351 on 4671064
    Catherine Niemiec, JD, L.Ac.

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Ron Holt at Douthit Frets
    February 22, 2017 Contact: 913-387-1600

    A group of eleven (11) long-standing accredited Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (AOM) private colleges around the nation have stepped forward on behalf of their industry and profession to resolutely challenge the overbroad gainful employment (GE) regulations of the United States Department of Education (USDE) which were directed at for-profit colleges based on the presumption that all of the for-profit institutions are luring students into their programs leaving them with an inability to earn a sufficient living or pay off their debt. Instead, these AOM colleges show that they have extremely low default rates, and that most of their graduates are achieving successful, meaningful careers where they are making a positive difference in health care. For this industry, it takes somewhat longer than allowed in the highly limited “one size fits all” GE calculations for them to achieve “gainful employment”. As a result of not meeting these biased and poorly written regulations, the colleges would be forced to make inaccurate blanket statements about future prospects, leading most prospective students to not pursue their education at that institution. The end impact of these flawed regulations threaten to shutter these colleges and damage a whole healthcare industry upon which Americans depend for affordable, safe and effective healthcare, and that is thriving and supporting their graduates and communities.
    While these colleges support accountability and gainful employment for their graduates, they contest that the current law, which might appear fair on its face, instead creates an arbitrary, prejudicial and negative impact “as applied” in practice. The flawed regulations force “compliant” groups such as AOM into a “non-compliant” status and endanger their ability to operate and deliver this much needed education and healthcare. Through the law firms of Jaburg Wilk (Phoenix, Arizona) and Douthit Frets (Kansas City, Missouri) they seek relief from the looming “warnings deadline” and devastating impact on the colleges and the ability of the public to receive this medicine.
    The GE “debt-to-earning” calculations are based on graduates attaining a certain level of income within 3 years, typically working in jobs that already exist, to prove that they can pay off their loans. It does not allow for the nature of self-employed Acupuncturists, who after 4 years of medical training, usually take an additional year to pass their national certification exams and get licensed, and another 3-4 years to establish a full-time practice. Nonetheless, the responsible AOM graduates are paying off their loans as the low default rates indicate. Unfortunately, the reported earnings do not achieve the excessively high and limiting USDE threshold that does not take into account the longer employment path of the profession.
    Acupuncturists have been pioneering this medicine into mainstream US healthcare system by means of individual or group practice over the past fifty years. It is only in this past decade that more and more people are turning to alternative and complementary healthcare. Hospitals, research institutions, and the military are increasingly partnering with AOM colleges and also hiring acupuncturists to effectively manage pain, opioid addiction, cancer-related symptoms, and more. The vast majority of these AOM healthcare providers still operate their own practices. It is a highly attractive field for those interested in a more natural and holistic form of healthcare that offers independence and flexibility. A large number of graduate Acupuncturists work part-time and variable hours in order to manage family care, health issues or disabilities, or wish to work in low income and needy communities.
    For these eleven (11) medical colleges, and the other forty-nine (49) AOM nonprofit and for profit colleges in the United States, there is no significant difference in employment outcomes, graduation and default rates between the for profit and nonprofit colleges, as supported by data from the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) and the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (CCAOM). Moreover, all of these colleges have been serving their communities with affordable and free healthcare around the nation for decades, graduating thousands of students who have gone on to provide successful healthcare to the public in this ancient and integrative medicine. It is critical to preserve this much-needed form of healthcare.
    For more information, contact Douthit Frets at rholt@dfrglaw.com, 913-387-1600.

  • 17 Mar 2017 12:58 PM
    Reply # 4673447 on 4671064
    Me

     I have a few words for the acupuncturist who wants some "student relief"  for their loans.   Interesting phrase "students relief".  What that actually means is They want somebody else who does pay their taxes, who has paid their ow loans and is working hard and is successful, like another successful acupuncturist, to pay for this student. And this is because They are not willing to work hard, or full-time, or work smart, in order to pay back the debt that I personally signed for and accumulated.   Do they think that the government actually grows this money on trees to help students who don't know how to be successful once they leave school? 

    I wonder how this person expects to be successful while having such a dependent attitude, expecting other taxpayers including other acupuncturists to take care of them?





  • 17 Mar 2017 1:16 PM
    Reply # 4673518 on 4673350
    Anonymous
    Catherine Niemiec, JD, L.Ac. wrote:

    AOM college loan default rates are extremely low, mostly in the single digits. This means our students are able to pay back their loans. The problem is the DOE calculation which unfairly penalizes our profession and expects a certain level of earnings almost immediately after students graduate, not taking account the time spent taking certification exams, building a sole practice, or choosing to work part-time. The DOE looks at net earnings for private practice, which is affected by the tax preparer's decision to utilize as many tax deductions to reduce net income and pay less taxes. These factors are out of control of the colleges. Instead the DOE should focus on the default rates which are low for our colleges and national certification pass rates, which are fairly equal among our for profit and nonprofit AOM colleges. In addition, the DOE regulations were unfairly applied to for profit colleges only, when all colleges should be held to equal standards. Thus, we are protesting the regulation as applied, since it uses an unfair assessment process. In addition to affecting many other schools and professions which do not use "predatory recruitment practices" the effect of these laws will damage the profession, their colleges, and the communities which depend on them.

    Are you able to cite sources for the clam you make in your first sentence, please?


  • 17 Mar 2017 3:01 PM
    Reply # 4673750 on 4671064
    TS

    Just because graduates of AOM schools are not defaulting in high numbers does not meant they are coming anywhere near paying their loans off, or earning a living wage as acupuncturists. All you have to do to not default is get on Income Based Repayment, which can be $0/month. You can also be in forbearance status for years. You also can continue in school by taking classes at a community college like yoga and swimming, and keep your in-school deferment status for years without having to pay a dime on your loans; your credit in all of these scenarios is not penalized. There are many other explanations to a low default rate. It is not the measure of success of these programs. Anyone can not default, all you have to do is communicate with the loan holders. A low default rate measures almost nothing with respect to the success of graduates of AOM schools. 

  • 17 Mar 2017 3:09 PM
    Reply # 4673758 on 4671064
    Anonmymous

    As far as I can understand, colleges, universities, and trade schools (such as AOM programs) are only required to track repayment rates for 3 years after matriculation.  What do we know about this?  Students who borrowed and are in the process of board prep and licensure will defer their payments for 6 months after graduation.  Then once credentialed, they may go into forebearance for another 6-12 months.  They may start payments if they can...especially if they applied for relief under IBR.  However, as one continues to build a practice and pay for living expenses, continued cash flow may be needed, so another deferment may be filed. This cycle can continue for > 3 years...well beyond the required tracking data.  Default may not happen until  5-10 years post matriculation.  So the "low default rate" indicated by another poster is less than transparent, disingenuous, grossly misleading. 

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-28/student-loan-defaults-fall-but-the-numbers-are-rigged



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