Before College: Be Careful! For-Profit Schools Can Be Risky!

Not every American dreams of a career requiring a bachelor’s degree from a private or public college or university. Many want skilled technical positions available to those who earn associate’s degrees or certificates. There are three main pathways to such credentials: community colleges, state technical institutions, and for-profit schools.

But here’s an important question for students seeking associate degrees or certificates — should they attend for-profit schools?

The media regularly reports on for-profits engaging in dirty practices such as:

• Persuading students to enroll with false advertising;

• Charging high rates of tuition but offering cut-rate facilities and student services;

• Providing education and training programs that don’t lead to the jobs students need and want; and

• Unexpectedly closing, which can impair their students’ efforts to complete their studies.

Such stories aren’t fake news. This past fall the inspector general of the U.S. Education Department (ED) warned Congress that postsecondary education’s for-profit sector “continues to be a high-risk area”.

Just last week a national for-profit chain of schools announced a multi-million dollar settlement with 48 states who were investigating it for misleading prospective students about costs, credit transferability, job placement rates, and program offerings.

In December.ED began searching for 20,000 students needing help due to the sudden closure of over 70 schools owned by a large for-profit education company.

For-profit schools aren’t the only “bad actors” in postsecondary education, as illustrated by the situation at Temple University. But for-profit schools are disproportionately cited for scamming students.

And while ED’s latest data show that under 2% of postsecondary students enroll in for-profit schools, those schools produced 34% of federal student borrowers counted in ED’S 2015 default rate.

All this suggests that, if they’re accessible and offering programs students seek, it’s probably better to attend community colleges or state technical institutions than for-profit schools.

Still, not every for-profit school is bad. Many offer more flexible class schedules and require fewer prerequisite classes, making for faster graduation. And a majority of their students are older than average so, as adults, they may find for-profits more comfortable than campuses on which they’re surrounded by teenagers and twenty-somethings.

Every postsecondary school is legally required to make available to prospective students information on its:

• Costs of attendance;

• Financial aid available;

• Educational and training programs;

• Refund, transfer of credits, and withdrawal policies and procedures; and

• Completion, graduation, job placement, retention, and transfer rates.

Also, a 2016 Forbes Magazine article suggested six additional items to check when checking out for-profit schools.

Students never deserve to be victimized. They should use the information described above to avoid unethical for-profit schools!

Is affordability an issue in your efforts to select a college? Contact College Affordability Solutions if you’re looking for help.

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