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Huntington Learning Centers Keeps Sending Me ACT Score-Raising Ads

May 23, 2015

Over the past two school years, I have received numerous advertisements from Huntington Learning Centers (HLC), all geared toward ACT prep, and all advertising the following “testimonial”:

I just received my ACT scores a few days ago, and found I scored a 33, six more than my original score! I couldn’t have even come close to this if it weren’t for your help….”

–Will C.

Now, “Will C.” (I can’t help but think, “We’ll see…”) does not state that this 33 is a composite score. It could be one of four subject scores. One cannot know from this limited advertisement. However, a prospective HLC parent could surely read that 33 as an ACT composite and assume that Will C. would have had “only” a 27 (hardly an embarrassing ACT composite) had it not been for HLC– and that HLC has the power to move ACT scores and therefore, to open college acceptance and scholarship doors for all students.

I am concerned about parents being suckered into dumping money into some ACT jackpot mirage. So, I did a bit of investigating about HLC and offer it here for parents to read as part of making a more informed decision regarding retaining HLC’s services.

The first place I went in my HLC investigation was the HLC website. On its website, HLC offers a number of testimonials for exam prepacademic skills, and subject tutoring. Will C. is not among them.

HLC notes the following about its tutors:

All of our tutors are college-educated and are either state or Huntington certified and many hold advanced degrees, usually in education.

So, HLC tutors may not be teachers, but they will have some level of college education and will be “Huntington certified” (whatever that means). According to this same page, there is a “Huntington System and its teaching methods” and a “Huntington curriculum.”

When it comes to test prep, HLC is careful not to trap itself with any guarantee of a certain score but stays with a pretty general message:

Huntington helps students score higher on important college entrance and scholarship exams like the SAT, ACT, and PSAT, as well as high school entrance exams and other exams, such as the GED and ASVAB.

However, on the job review site, Glassdoor, HLC makes the same specific claims in response to more than one poor reviews by former employees. In short, one identified as “HLC senior manager of recruiting and employee relations” claims that students who use HLC will see math will increase 1.2 grade levels and reading, by 1.0 grade level over the course of three months, and that given two and a half months, HLC will have student SAT scores increase by 192 points and ACT scores, by 4.2 points.

It is important to note that these statements are not taken from the HLC website. A Google search of the above score increases only identifies the Glassdoor reviews, not any official HLC site.

An email accompanying the comments leads back to Jessica Rotino Dribnack, HLC Senior Manager of Recruiting and Employee Relations. So, parents, feel free to ask Dribnack about those claims.

Another HLC page that I examined was the one advertising “owning a franchise.” The link notes that for less than $100,000, I could “join the #1 revenue producing tutoring franchise.” In fact, according to this page, I could make “revenue 50% higher than our closest competitor,” which happens to be Sylvan.

HLC even offers in-house financing for that initial $100k. HLC will also help me choose a location for my franchise. HLC advertises that turning a profit with HLC is virtually guaranteed since tutoring is apparently immune to recession.

As an HLC franchise owner, I could make money.

As an HLC tutor, not so much.

My reading of the HLC salary reviews on Glassdoor has HLC tutors making roughly $11 to $15 per hour. And the work is chiefly part time– and highly unpredictable. In fact, if students don’t show up, the HLC tutor does not get paid.

There are no company benefits for this part time work. Tutor turnover is high. Many tutors/managers complain about the outdated curricular materials. The reviews I read are all from 2014-15, and the complaint of outdated or “stale” curriculum seems to contradict the HLC website claim that it has updated its curriculum to align with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Some full time employees note a lack of benefits and a lot of paperwork. A number note the discrepancy between the high fees charged to parents and the low pay for tutors.

Since HLC is franchised, the quality of the HLC centers is dependent upon the competence/business sense of the individual franchise owners– who apparently do not have to be college educated or even familiar with education before purchasing an HLC franchise.

Many suggest that the parents avoid the franchise-padding trap of HLC fees and simply secure a private tutor.

The letter I received today from HLC offers three test-prep packages for the ACT. One is for a 28-hour program. Based upon the Glassdoor review info, it seems that I could be required to commit to paying roughly $3000 for this ACT test prep package. The letter includes no fee schedule. For that, I must call the local HLC franchise advertised on the letter. The HLC website includes a number, 1-800-CAN-LEARN– and it even has a link for an HLC rep to “call me now.”

Sales tactics.

I think it would be very easy for a concerned parent to be taken for thousands of dollars by HLC. And I agree with the Glassdoor reviewers who suggested that parents not spend money on a franchise that underpays its revolving-door tutors and instead seek out a local tutor.

In closing, let me suggest that parents who are considering sinking thousands of dollars into HLC read the discussion on this 2005 discussion page. It begins with a parent asking advice about the HLC suggestion that his son needs $10,000-worth of help from HLC to “completely turn around” this “academically struggling” student. The parent would have to take out a loan to afford HLC. Among the commenters on this thread are some with HLC experience. Included is commentary about HLC bill-padding.

HLC can send me all of the ads it likes. I will not be recommending them to any parents of my students.

That noted, I understand how visions of marvelous ACT scores can draw parents in.  Some will enter into contracts with tutoring businesses like HLC.

As for following the enticement of paying money for the ever-increasing ACT score: Get it in writing.

When dealing with promises made by the likes of HLC, get every word in writing.



Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover

  1. Local teachers just received Pearson ads for Common Core materials, presumably to pay for out of pocket. After all, teachers gotta compete with their peers in that Race to the Top!

  2. “A fool and his money are soon parted”

  3. Laura chapman permalink

    Another book in the waiting. If you want the full Monty on profit seeking, visit the Education Industry website. I did so when it was a fledgling organization in 1990. It is a full scale lobby for event profit seeking outfits now, and as in the beginning, more interested in “selling the sizzle not the steak.” That was the title of an early conference session.

  4. A good private tutor is always a better investment. Good tutors often build strong relationships with their students. I have been tutoring a student for 10 years. I got this LD student into college. The parent of another student I tutored wanted a quick fix. Here in NY they were charged $125 a session plus $1000 for diagnostic testing (the student already was tested by the school district to determine his disability FOR FREE). By the way, they would not accept the testing by the district. After they spent $7000 dollars for nothing, they came back to me.

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