FTC Crackdown on For-Profit Colleges for False Claims

Michael W. Davis, DDS



The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a release on October 6, 2021 that it has placed 70 for-profit higher education institutions on notice for any false promises made to students related to future job earnings or other outcomes.

Under the FTC’s Penalty Offense Authority, offenders face civil penalties up to $43,792 per violation. The FTC stated, “Many of the practices outlined in the Notice relate to claims made by institutions about the career outcomes of their graduates, including whether a particular career field is in demand, the percentage of graduates who get jobs in their chosen field, whether the institution can help a graduate get a job, the amount of money a graduate can expect to earn, and other related practices.”

The FTC specified education-related complaints soared roughly 70% between 2018-2020.

Former FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra stated in a prepared letter, “Student debt has surged in the United States. Forty-three million Americans owe $1.6 trillion in federal student debt. Hundreds of billions of dollars in student debt have also gone into default. Sadly, for many Americans, their experience with higher education started with a dream, but turned into a nightmare.”

“A disproportionate number of Americans that defaulted on their student loans attended for-profit colleges. For decades, there have been concerns about the incentives of some of these outfits that have scammed students. There have also been too many incidents where veterans using benefits like the GI Bill have been subjected to illegal misconduct.”

Among the 70 institutions given FTC Notice of Penalty Offenses, a significant number offer programs in dental assisting, dental hygiene, and/or medical/dental office management and record keeping. One is encouraged to click on the FTC’s link provided to view specific programs.

“For too long, unscrupulous for-profit schools have preyed on students with impunity, facing no penalties when they defraud their students and drive them into debt,” said FTC Chair, Lina M. Khan. “The FTC is resurrecting a dormant authority to deter wrongdoing and hold accountable bad actors who abuse students and taxpayers. Working closely with our state and federal partners, we’ll be monitoring this market carefully.”

Dental Industry Significance

Abuses of students and taxpayers related to for-profit dental educational programs are not new. The case involving dental assisting training by the today defunct Kaplan College in North Carolina was nationally reported in 2012. Kaplan College shuttered the doors on their Milwaukee, Wisconsin dental assisting program in 2013. The US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas announced a $1.3 million settlement with Kaplan in 2015, for allegedly operating with unqualified instructors.

Quality education for dental team members is critical. Students must be afforded veracity and full disclosures related to future employment prospects, cost of education, and access to fully qualified and licensed instructors. The nation’s public deserves optimally trained and qualified healthcare professionals and support personnel.

The American Dental Association’s (ADA’s) organization which provides oversight on dental accreditation is the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). One often thinks of CODA in terms of certification for continuing education of doctors, and accreditation of doctoral and post-doctoral educational programs.

CODA also accredits dental assistingdental hygienistdental therapy, and dental laboratory technology programs.

Not every state requires CODA certification for educational institutions and curriculums training dental auxiliaries. When regulatory authority is weak or nonexistent, unscrupulous actors regularly seem to prey on the disadvantaged and ignorant.

CODA provides a valuable safeguard. A vigorous FTC which engages dishonest educational programs offers additional public and professional protection.


Dr. Michael W. Davis practices general dentistry in Santa Fe, NM. He also provides attorney clients with legal expert witness work and consultation. Davis also currently chairs the Santa Fe District Dental Society Peer Review Committee. He can be reached at MWDavisDDS@Comcast.net

FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash.