THE Department of Higher Education and Training is faced with the big task of shutting down bogus colleges that keep mushrooming annually around the country. This year is no different as scores of prospective tertiary students will be lured into enrolling at these illegal institutions.THE DEPARTMENT IS AWARE The department’s spokesperson, Madikwe Mabotha, admitted that the department is aware of these colleges. “The department is aware of several colleges and institutions purporting to offer higher education programmes without registration by the department. These bogus colleges use a range of methods to mislead the public,” he confirmed. He says there are those that are not registered at all and those which are registered, but offer unregistered courses. “Some colleges register with the department, but would realise that there’s a demand for a certain course and so they offer it without registering that course with the department,” he clarifies.STUDY AT A CREDIBLE COLLEGE However, he is quick to clarify that not all private colleges are fake, but one needs to be careful before they enrol or even pay a cent towards any private college. He says parents and students should make use of the department’s website to find out if a college is registered or not. “The responsibility is on the individual to make sure they study at a credible institution,” he affirms. He admits that it’s difficult to tell at face value as fake colleges go above and beyond to look legit. “These operators always go for popular courses such as nursing and bridging courses under the pretence that they guarantee an individual entry into big institutions,” he says.WHAT DO TO WHEN YOU’VE BEEN SCAMMED If you’ve already fallen victim to these illegal operators, you can demand your money back. Madikwe says another option would be to open a case with the police or to take the matter to the small claims court if the money you are owed is less than R15 000. “These illegal operators are getting clever by the day and are a step ahead of the authorities. We’ve been working with the police to help us shut down these colleges,” Madikwe assures.