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For-profit schools: Are they worth it?

Jamie Ballard

With all the issues facing Corinthian Colleges Inc. recently – they’re closing 85 campuses and selling 12 others – for-profit schools have been at the front of many people’s minds. CCI owns Heald, Everest and WyoTech schools, and students at those schools are worrying about how to continue their educations.

For-profit schools saw 1.8 million students enrolled in 2011. Since then, enrollment has slowly and gradually declined, thanks to many for-profit schools being closed, sold, or exposed as engaging in fraudulent marketing.

There are many benefits to for-profit schools. They often offer more flexible schedules, and allow students to graduate quickly. Additionally, for students who have a very specific trade focus, for-profit trade schools sometimes offer degree or credential programs that are competitively priced, and take less than a year to complete.  They’re considerably more flexible, and focus largely on job training.

However, most students at for-profit schools end up paying more money in tuition and fees than students at two-year or four-year universities. Subsequently, many students take out more loans, and end up in debt more often than students in any other sector of education. They also default on these loans more quickly. What’s more, many students report being unable to find a job after they graduate, despite some schools promising a 100 percent job placement guarantee. And when they try to talk to a counselor, they find no one is willing to help.

The schools are primarily a business, rather than an institution of higher learning.

If you’re considering attending a for-profit school, there are some things you should keep an eye out for. Firstly, you shouldn’t trust a school representative who tries to rush you into signing up without all the information, tells you it’s an opportunity that must be taken now, or tells you their school has a 100 percent job placement guarantee after graduation. You should also be wary if the salesperson dodges your question or doesn’t provide clear information. Before you enroll, you should always do your research, including resources not connected to the school. Figure out the prices as compared to similar programs at other schools – you may be surprised.

While I’m not generally one for following the crowd, in this case, I would consider the fact that community college enrollment continues to grow while for-profit universities are bleeding students.

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