History on Repeat



The primary member organization for career colleges has shifted monikers and missions over the years to better lead schools


By Kevin Kuzma, Consulting Editor


“When I want to understand what is happening today or try to decide what will happen tomorrow, I look back.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.


While history often reveals its passing flavors and fads, it also displays recurring themes that never seem to be lost in the ages. One of those long-standing trends reaching back generations is the merging and reorganization of businesses.


As corporations evolve, they sometimes change names, missions, branding and even locations to show how they’ve changed for the benefit of customers. In the higher education realm, the same is true of colleges and the associations that represent them. Last year, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) announced it was changing its name to Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU) to broaden its mission and welcome schools of all types — including traditional colleges, universities and community colleges — to join the organization.


Over time, missions change. Schools, adapting to rules and regulations levied by the government, need new representation on Capitol Hill to meet new guidelines for educational success. Before either APSCU or CECU existed, the member organization was known simply as CCA (Career College Association). CCA was the main lobbying organization for the career college sector for more than 20 years. The story of how CCA came about in the late 1980s as a result of two career college organizations combining is a relevant reminder of how our association today has adapted for the betterment of students.


Since the early 1960s, both the National Association of Trade and Technical Schools (NATTS) and Association of Independent Colleges and Schools (AICS) had periodically talked about consolidating. However, it wasn’t until 1989 that both sides agreed a merger was needed and could provide potential benefits. The merger was also explored because AICS had been operating with an acting president, Dr. Jim Foran. From a logistical standpoint, if the two organizations consolidated, it was assumed they could more easily choose one president. John Huston, chairman of the Accrediting Commission of Independent Colleges and Schools between 1991 in 1992, thought the merger helped bring the organizations “from a defensive move ... to primarily an offensive move” through the pooling of financial and lobbying efforts.



Four weeks to a new name


Deciding on a new name was not easy. Both organizations had a long and distinguished history, as well as an evolution of names under which they functioned. There was a national pride in both names, but there was also recognition that a new name was essential. The nationally renowned marketing firm Ries and Trout was engaged and assigned the task of recommending a new name for the new organization.


Stephen B. Friedheim, last chair of AICS and selected to be the first chair of the new organization, remembers, “We briefed Al Ries on our history, our membership, the characteristics of our curriculum offerings and students; all of which they reviewed carefully. Four weeks later, they returned to give us our new name.”


“We were eager for the selection,” Friedheim recalled, “but they said that they’d first have to explain how they reached the name they’d picked. They explained that every organization had to avoid using National, American, International or Association of at the beginning of the name because by using those words, the organization would get lost in the phonebook or in any listing.”


“All organizations need to ‘own a word,’ they said, a word that no one else has; that best describes what it represents and what it does. So, after reviewing everything we gave them and told them, they said our word was ‘career.’ It best described what our members were all about: We all dealt with careers, and no other higher education sector could claim it.”


“Then they looked at what our members called themselves: schools, colleges, institutes, universities, academies, etc. All of those types could not be incorporated in the name, so they said they had to answer the question, ‘Where do people go after high school?’ The answer was easy: They went to college. Even if they went to the state university, parents say, ‘My kids are off to college.’ So, ‘college’ became the second word in the name. Finally, because we were an organization, they determined the most appropriate tag word was ‘association.’ And that’s how the name came about and why it was chosen.”



Preparation is still the primary purpose


Some differences remain within and outside the sector on the most appropriate term. Many private career schools also describe themselves as “career colleges” because of their career-oriented, hands-on and customer-focused curriculum. The primary purpose of the schools has always been to prepare graduates for jobs or career advancement. Programs and career colleges have always focused on the development of skills for jobs and use applied approaches to teaching and learning, also offering a wide array of programs for high-demand occupational or professional fields.


Two important pieces that the new Career College Association inherited from the merger were the nonprofit Career Training Foundation (CTF) and its Default Management Initiative (DMI). The CTF, which was originally part of NATTS, had taken the lead in addressing the default issue and cosponsored the Private Career School Default Management Initiative with AICS in 1986. The DMI was the first default prevention program in the private career sector, and more than 5,500 school administrators attended DMI workshops between 1987 and 1991.


In October 1990, AICS and NATTS formed a study group to address the merging of the two associations. Leaders on both sides had concerns about staff assignments, finances and fees, accountability, and standards. Both sides recognized that as their memberships had grown and curricula had expanded, members of the two associations had developed increasingly similar goals. Because the line between what defined a NATTS school versus an AICS school had become blurred, it made more sense to pool their lobbying efforts and speak with a unified voice.


The consolidation officially took place on Aug. 1, 1991, with the adoption of the new inclusive name: the Career College Association. At the time of the merger, CCA had more than 2,000 member schools serving more than 1 million students, making it the largest organization representing private career institutions.