Thinking about private, for-profit career or technical colleges?
Many of these colleges rely on recruitment practices that are misleading and graduates of these colleges often leave with large amounts of debt and no marketable degree.
Are all of these colleges bad? No. All of these institutions exist, at least in part, to earn money for their owners and shareholders. That means they all are working to make a profit. For some, that means making decisions that will help them make more money, rather than making decisions that are in the best interests of their students. But that’s not true for all of them. In fact, in some cases, a for-profit college might be the best fit for you. Your job is to research all of your college options carefully.
FOLLOW THESE THREE STEPS TO MAKE A GOOD CHOICE
Talk to as many people as you can about their experiences – including current students, former students (those who graduated and those who didn’t) and employers in your chosen career field. Do they have jobs? How much debt do they have? Does their job allow them to make payments? Do employers hire graduates of the school? Is the school regionally accredited?
- If you can’t find employers who hire graduates from the school, you aren’t likely to be able to find a job when you graduate.
- If the school doesn’t jump at the opportunity to connect you with current or former students, there’s probably a reason – and it’s not a good one!
- Schools that say they are nationally accredited (rather than regionally accredited) have been among the most notorious for being more concerned about making money than educating students.
- If a school is not approved in Oregon, any credential you earn will not be authorized by the state. However, approval does not necessarily mean the college will put students ahead of profits.
- If a public or not-for-profit college or university will not grant transfer credit for coursework completed at the school, you could end up stuck with debt and few options if the school closes unexpectedly. (In recent years, even some of the largest and most prominent for-profit colleges have closed their doors with little or no warning.)
- If you are planning to earn a BFA or BM at a school of art or music conservatory, search for schools that are accredited by one of the four discipline-specific (art & design, music, theater, or dance) accreditation boards using their directories. For-profit colleges that aren't listed may not provide attractive job prospects after graduation.
Compare multiple colleges if possible. Explore the college campuses. Sit in on a class. Meet current students, staff, and faculty members. Ask questions. What is the graduation rate? What is the job placement rate? What is the average debt of graduates? Of non-graduates? Collect information but wait to enroll until you’ve had time to talk with your family or other trusted adults.
- If a college is pressuring you to enroll “on the spot,” this is a big clue that they are more concerned about making money than they are about you.
Review admissions requirements. Calculate your total costs. Read your enrollment contract. Ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
- If you don’t understand the contract or your financial aid award letter and can’t find anyone at the college to help you understand it, you may end up on the hook for paying more than you can afford.