For-profit colleges are the subject of much scrutiny as of late, being criticized for unethical and fraudulent practices for bringing in students. A government inquiry of 15 for-profit colleges found examples at every school of officials lying about or misrepresenting their programs. (USA Today Aug. 4)
With a high student loan default rate and reports of inflated placement rates, the for-profit education industry is preparing for a Senate hearing on Thursday which will address reported abusive practices towards students.
Students considering programs offered by for-profit schools can better protect themselves by studying up before making their tuition deposit:
- Check accreditation. Ask if specific programs are accredited and by whom, and if there are other licensing or registration requirements beyond the earned degree and if the program prepares students to take any required exams upon graduation. Then verify the information. You can start with your state's Attorney General's office.
- Search for complaints. Most attorney general offices have consumer complaint divisions that log grievances against educational institutions. If not, state education departments should point you in the right direction. Be sure to find out the name of the school's parent company and search for it, too.
- Check graduation, placement, and retention rates. The National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, D.C., is a good place to start.
- Talk to potential employers. Ask employers if they are familiar with a program, whether they would hire its graduates, and if they ever have.
- Compare community colleges. Community colleges and public, nonprofit technical schools often offer programs similar to those of private proprietary schools for a fraction of the cost.