This article about certificate schools was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education, in partnership with NBC Nightly News and

OAKHAM, Mass. — The timing seemed fortuitous. The five people Jessica Evers lived with had left for work and school, leaving her alone to care for her infant daughter and browse the internet for schools. Back then, in 2010, she was 22 and her plan was to find a good job and move out of that small three-bedroom house in Hudson, Massachusetts.

And then, almost as if it were speaking directly to her, a television commercial caught her attention.

With upbeat music and promises of a new career, the advertisement introduced Evers to Salter College. The school had a campus a half hour away and offered certificate programs, which would get her into a career faster than an associate’s degree program.

She immediately visited the website, which described financial aid she could get and, crucially, promised career placement services to help “students and alumni in all aspects of their job search.”

It looked perfect. Just like it was supposed to. Evers, who was unemployed, called the next day to make an appointment with the admissions office.

“My dream was to have a job, to better myself and my life for my child,” she said.



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