March 1, 2016

For-Profit College Recruiter Hides Behind McDonalds Arches

McD jobs

A website displaying McDonalds’ famed golden arches and promising jobs at the fast-food empire quickly pushes visitors instead to recruiters at for-profit colleges, including those owned by two of the largest and most troubled companies in this sector — ITT Tech and Education Management Corporation (EDMC).

Republic Report has exposed in the past websites that promise jobs, government programs, or veterans benefits but seem to be mostly aimed at finding potential students for big for-profit colleges who pay handsomely for these leads.  The college recruiters are desperate to find new students so they can cash their federal student grants and loans.  The for-profit college industry has been taking as much as $32 billion in federal aid annually, but increased public awareness of how high-priced, low-quality programs in the sector leave students unemployed and buried in student loan debt have sent enrollments and revenues plummeting in recent years.

The McDonalds-themed website,, starts off asking visitors for a zip code.  Once that’s entered, the visitor is informed that, yes indeed, there are jobs available in your area — “We’ve found 156 Jobs in Washington, DC!”

But before you can see those jobs, asks for your email address.  Enter that, and the site wants your name, phone number (“Mobile Recommended”), and high school graduation year so that “employers” can “contact you.”  But small print at the bottom of that page indicates what’s really up: “By submitting this form, I agree to the site privacy policy and understand that I may be called or messaged by and about employment opportunities, job search assistance, career advancement and educational opportunities at the phone number I provided, including my wireless number, through the use of an automated technology.”

Based on extensive experience studying, and talking with scores of former employees from, the for-profit college lead generation industry, I am confident that if you enter your information on this page, many of the calls and messages you get will not be from employers like McDonalds, let alone Google, offering you jobs, or the Illinois Department of Job Search Assistance calling to help out.  The calls will be about “educational opportunities,” meaning for-profit colleges.
Indeed, I learned about this site from an advocate for for-profit college students, who says he actually was looking for a job at McDonald’s and Googled, and at the top of the search results was a paid listing for (as there was when I Googled “mcdonalds jobs” today).  He says he “received a call literally two minutes after inputing my phone number” from a marketer pushing him to enroll at EDMC’s Argosy University.

But just in case your phone is dead, the next screen of offers you some advice:

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It doesn’t matter whether you check that box or not, because you’ve already consented to be called.  But I checked it, just to see what would come next.

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I said I wanted to keep going, and then I got:

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So now had steered me to the Art Institutes, owned by EDMC, and ITT Tech. Both companies have been exposed by congressional and media investigations for engaging in predatory practices — using deceptive recruiting, charging sky-high prices, offering some poor-quality programs. Both have now been investigated and sued by law enforcement agencies. Both are now in serious financial trouble.

According to Internet domain registration information, is registered to Percipio Holdings, Inc., a company whose “under construction” website says simply, “Providing customized job search experiences.” Percipio seems to operate a number of similar job websites, such as (small faint print: “Not associated with California; we are your personal job department”). The company has an address at 40 Warren Street, 3rd floor, Charlestown, Massachusetts.  That is a business center operated by Regus, whose representative told me that spaces there rent on both a long and short term basis. I sent an email to the email address provided on seeking information about the site, but I haven’t received a response.

Last fall, the Federal Trade Commission held a public meeting on online lead generation practices, including for the for-profit college industry. (I spoke on a panel at the meeting.) An FTC official stated there that the Commission “will continue to look at unlawful practices involving lead generators and we’ll bring enforcement actions where appropriate.” The FTC, which for years did not pursue the deceptive practices of the for-profit college industry, has recently, under Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, taken important steps to go after misconduct, including a lawsuit filed last month against DeVry University, and investigations of Career Education Corp. and the University of Phoenix.

UPDATE 03-10-16: Tonight, a visitor who clicks on won’t find the McDonalds theme anymore, but if you get to the site by searching on Google for “McDonalds jobs” and clicking on the top ad result, you do see the McDonalds theme.  Also, if you search for “K-Mart jobs,” you end up at a similar lead generation site.

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This article also appears on Huffington Post.