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For-Profit and the Rest

For-profit or nonprofit, public or private, community college or four year college? So many choices confuse the college planning process for our youth and working adult students. Regardless of which option students choose, they all have to pay; tuition, housing, food, medical, transportation, facility fees, and on and on. No matter how students slice it, university life is costly. Whether they’re applying for scholarships, borrowing federal loans or using their GI Bill, selecting the right college track is paramount. While federal and state policies continuously change to a greater or lesser degree, students are generally better off steering clear of for-profit higher education altogether regardless of the sales pitch.

What For-Profits Sell

In the sales world, for-profit institutions boast of greater inclusion and an easier application process. Many of their classes are online, so a typical catch phrase is “flexibility for the working adult.” Counselors often plan everything from course schedules to ordering student books. The seeming ease with which everything is taken care of is tempting; nominal, if any, student self-navigation is required. There are no entrance exams and high school grades are rarely if ever relevant. As a result, for-profits present a shoo-in for all college hopefuls who simply want to “get it done” or believe they can’t make the grade at a credible public or nonprofit private university. In many cases, if prospective students, particularly young adults returning to school after a gap year or extended hiatus, are willing to forfeit colossal sums of money, often without realizing the true cost including cost of living, they select a for-profit because it’s the “easier” route.

Yet the dangers of For-Profit education are evident:

  1. A for-profit degree or credential costs 20-40% more than it would at a public university, schools that far exceed any for-profit’s reputation and quality.

    For example, SDSU’s annual tuition for the 2017/2018 school year is $11,800 whereas the 2015/2016 tuition at DeVry University in Pomona, CA was $16,000. A degree at DeVry is 26% more expensive and far less valuable in the job market.

  2.  Because for-profits accept anyone, students who earn their degrees at these institutions are less likely to gain employment upon graduation.

Applicants with business bachelor’s degrees from large online for-profit institutions are about 22 percent less likely to hear back from employers than applicants with similar degrees from non-selective public schools, says the study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.US News

A for-profit degree simply isn’t as impressive to potential employers, which compounds the difficulty of finding a decent paying job to start paying off that hefty student debt.

  1. Students often drop out before earning a for-profit degree once they realize the sub-par, but expensive education they’ve been sold, which

  • Burdens them with insurmountable debt
  • Increases the likelihood of defaulting on student loans
  • Increases their risk of overall poverty
  1. The consequences of defaulting or failing to repay student loans extend far beyond campus life as students risk:

  • a lawsuit by lenders
  • poor credit and potential bankruptcy
  • qualifying for future education loans and grants
  1. Should students attempt to transfer to a community college or public university, previous credits earned at a for-profit school are rarely transferable.

It will be particularly tough to transfer credits because of the way for-profit colleges are accredited. While most public and nonprofit colleges are regionally accredited, for-profit colleges tend to be nationally accredited. The difference, according to an article in Academe magazine, is that national agencies “use quantitative criteria like completion and job-placement rates,” while regional agencies “consider factors like shared governance and academic freedom.”- Business Insider

In other words, students have to begin all over again, which requires more time, money and commitment.

The For-Profit Bottom Line

In sum, completing a Bachelor’s Degree or higher degree is a holistic commitment to the institution’s social environment, academic curriculum and one’s personal financial responsibility. Since for-profits are often considered “predatory” institutions because their primary responsibility is to their “bottom line” and their shareholders, they prey on the uninformed or ill-informed. Just because something is easy doesn’t make it worth it. Students must free their minds of the for-profit sales pitch, “an effortless fast-track to financial success.” Only then can students pursue quality, cost-effective higher education.

An Optimal Route

The most affordable and credible workaround is your local community college. For an annual $1104 at San Diego City College, this “budget” tuition covers student health services, a full course load of 12 units or four classes and a high-caliber curriculum delivered by respected and talented professors. Many community colleges, whose tuition ranges from $1000-$4000 annually, also offer many courses online to suit working adults’ needs and diverse classroom environments for recent high school grads. Most importantly, almost all units are readily transferable to a reputable public or nonprofit private 4-year college that will yield a higher success rate and more advantageous employment opportunities for a bargain price.