Before College: Changing Your Postsecondary Educational Plans? Be Careful About For-Profit Schools!

At times like this, for-profit postsecondary schools are very effective in marketing themselves to students who might not otherwise consider them. But be careful!

These schools are poorly regulated, weakly supervised and, more than anyplace else you can go to learn after high school, likely to rip students off. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic is going to give them many opportunities to do this.

The National Center for Education Statistics expects almost 3.6 million high school graduates. this year. But one survey done a week before most 4-year college enrollment deposit deadlines found that 40% of them who planned to attend those schools this coming fall hadn’t yet paid such charges, and 12% who had paid no longer intended to enroll in such schools full-time.

Has coronavirus shrunk your ability to pay for college? Have you heard it’ll lead to big cost increases at public and non-profit colleges? Are you wondering if you can afford college at all.

Enter the for-profit schools. They’ll market themselves as faster, less expensive routes to graduation and success. They’ll highlight their flexible and online programs that’ll fit your schedule and keep you healthy. They’ll say their faculty’s real-world experience gives you practical know-how, not just theories.

To be sure, there are good for-profit schools. But others simply lure students into paying way too much for lousy education and training programs leading to unstable, low-paying jobs.

Conduct Research

How do you know if a for-profit (or any) postsecondary school is good or bad? Use the U.S. Education Department’s College Scorecard. For schools offering certificates and degrees you want, it’ll show:

  • Average annual cost after grants and scholarships;
  • Drop out, retention, and graduation rates;
  • Student loan indebtedness, and monthly payment amounts for its graduates; and
  • Typical first-year salaries for graduates.

Use these numbers to compare schools.

Consider Alternatives

Can’t find a good for-profit school? Consider your local community college or nearby public technical institute. They don’t have the money to aggressively market themselves, but they often:

  • Provide flexible and online classes;
  • Charge lower tuition and fees but spend more on instruction than for-profit competitors;
  • Have higher retention and graduation rates than for-profit schools;
  • Teach courses other postsecondary institutions are more likely to accept in transfer; and
  • Don’t close their doors in the middle of the night, leaving customers with nothing but student loan debt — something hundreds of for-profits did over the last three decades.

Determining whether a for-profit postsecondary school is good or bad requires some research, but you’ve got to do it to protect yourself. If you find a bad one, avoid it. You have options. Use them!

A quality education is more likely to be an affordable education. Need help in choosing a school, college, or university? Contact College Affordability Solutions at (512) 366-5354 or if a no-charge consultation built on four decades of postsecondary experience might be helpful.

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