Don’t Spend Your Money on For Profit Schools

For profit colleges and universities are not a good value for the money! They are like paying $80K for a Kia Rio when could have had a new BMW X7. Give me the X7 for that kind of money. Why do you say that?

  • The cost of tuition per credit is high compared to community colleges and state universities
  • Job placement help is typically bad to non-existent by the school as is the on campus recruiting
  • Name brand recognition is usually weak. University of Arizona versus University of Phoenix. There is a big difference.
  • Employers don’t really value the grads of these schools or seek them out
  • Students graduate with high debt loads and limited jobs prospects thus making loan payment very difficult.
  • Many kids don’t graduate at all. This is the worst scenario. Lots of debt and no degree. Look at the graduation rates.
  • You cannot count on government loan forgiveness programs any longer should you wish to enter a lower paying field like teaching, social work, local government
  • You may not learn as much as you want due to low level of teaching, teaching by adjuncts and low information content even if you work hard
  • It may be difficult to transfer credits to another program should you wish to switch schools should you wise up halfway through. Will they accept the credits or tell you to start again?
  • They are run by some unsavory rich people looking to milk student loans from the government and saddle you with life changing debt. They are get rich schemes for those rich people. It’s reverse Robbin Hood stealing from the poor to give to the rich. Look up Betsy DeVos for example. Her family got rich off for profit schools.

So to sum it up they are not a good deal for your money. Like I’ve said this before colleges and universities are businesses. They will sell you anything you want and promise you the moon and the stars to get you to sign up. Buyer beware. Look at these choices just like you were buying a car, washing machine or TV. What do you really get for your money? For profit schools are like used car salesmen selling you clunker that barely runs at 19% APR that isn’t worth half the amount being charged. They use a heavy pressure sales tactic just like those slippery used car salesmen hawking lemons onto unsuspecting suckers. Don’t be a sucker. See article below.

Ok so you hate these schools. No, I don’t hate them but I see them take advantage of desperate people with false promises. I don’t like the false promises part. So let’s take a look at each point I have made.

The cost of tuition per credit and per degree is higher or equivalent to better perceived institutions

Here is a comparison of several schools in my current area and beyond.

Note the for profit schools

  1. Cost way more than the community college at $149 per credit at Portland Community College aka PCC versus $398 to $514 at the for profits. I don’t think these places are any better than PCC yet charge way more.
  2. Costs more than reputable local school Portland State University at $336 per credit versus $411 at for profit. Portland State is a real 4 year university with real professors, academic research, graduate programs and good job placement, especially for engineers.
  3. Cost is comparable to or higher than big name state universities like Oregon State, Oregon and Ohio State assuming you live there. These are solid nationally known universities whose grads employers in their local area hire by the bunch. They are the top dogs in their local area and have broad class offerings.
  4. Cheaper than Harvard but so are most places. But again if you are brilliant like Einstein, Galileo or even say Steve Jobs schools will throw money at you. And Harvard is free if your parents make less than $65K per year.
  5. Much of the for profit class work is online. That is very cheap content to create but they charge a lot for it. I could teach a class with two hundred kids from from my sofa for a few hundred dollars and charge them twenty dollars each to teach finance 101. Think about how much it really costs to deliver online education. The real benefit of college is to be in a class with the prof asking questions and working together with your classmates. The interaction is good and you should not pay more for less interaction. Would you pay $10K per year to watch videos? You are paying for that fancy campus, its facilities, rec centers, academic research, football stadium, quads and prestige. If you don’t get any of that and just watch videos you are being grossly overcharged for the same money.

You won’t see any of these schools ranking in listings of the best colleges and universities. How come? See for yourself. Google them.

  • US News and World Report in the USA. The big schools I list as public schools are all in there under national universities. Even Portland State is #284 nationally yet it is cheaper than the for profit ones!
  • Business Week for business programs
  • World University rankings ARWU
  • Forbes rankings
  • There are likely field specific rankings too. Check around. Ask around. Search online too. Specialized ones like nursing, engineering, computer science.
  • Whether the school is number 25 versus 65 doesn’t matter much. It’s the fact that the rankings bother to rate it.

Employers want to hire the best and brightest

Just like a football team or basketball team does. They all want the next Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Messi or Ronaldo on their team. Does your resume and transcript show you are a baller and a star? The best way to show you are ready for your new career is to show them you can do top quality work! That’s why a basketball player who does well at UNC, Wisconsin or Syracuse is sought out by the NBA whereas those guys who played at Podunk University in North Dakota don’t get a lot of looks from scouts.

The same goes with employers. The big name ones get hundreds of resumes. How can you stand out? I’ve literally had to review over 100 resumes for one job opening. My boss sent me a big folder via email and told me to pick the ones I liked for our group. She said she didn’t have time to read them all as there were too many. I printed them out and I spent about 30 seconds on each one putting them into two piles. My yes pile had like twenty resumes so I cut it to fifteen. My boss cut it to ten. We interviewed ten of them on the phone and brought three in in person. One person got the offer. You need to be able to make that first cut and the best way to do that is to have a known name on your resume. Once you get the interview you can wow them with your brilliance and wit but first you need to get in the door buddy. Big name and well known names will open doors for you. It doesn’t have to be Harvard or say Ohio State or Penn State but something the employer is familiar with in your local area. A place they have hired from before and had good results. Sure not all jobs are as competitive and some are even worse. They key is to stand out from the pile or database. Unlike human resources who uses key word search I at least went through the trouble of reading every single resume.

Ask places where you want to work who they normally hire and what kind of backgrounds they have. Talk to people who work there now. What was their path? You can tread the same well worn path as they did potentially.

Look really hard at the placement stats for each school.

  • Where does a typical graduate of the program go work?
  • How much do they make?
  • Where did they work before they began the program?
  • Does the job they take require a college degree at all? If not, why pay for school?
  • Look at the total graduating class. Be wary of partial data like say they only provide for half the graduates. That likely means the rest are unemployed or were too embarrassed to report they work at Burger King or Wal Mart.
  • Don’t just look at who they tout. Every school has a star they like to promote. The one guy or gal that made it big. Sure one guy made big money but what about the rest? What are they doing now and five years from now? What makes you so sure you can be that one star that makes it as opposed to every other guy? Look at averages not exceptions.
  • Could grads of the program break into their chosen field or did they just give up and do something else?
    • If the program is nursing are they RNs?
    • If the program is teaching are they teaching at the local middle school or high school?
    • If the program is accounting are they CPAs working for an accounting firm?
    • If they are computer science guys are they programming not working at Best Buy?

I don’t have the scores or grades to get into a big name school!

Ok then you need to prove yourself. If you are still in school work hard to boost those grades. If you have graduated take classes at your local community college and prove yourself. Ace those classes and show the universities you are are changed man or woman. Learn to study hard. Once you have a transcript full of As in your chosen field you can apply for transfer. Lots of big name state universities and colleges take tons of transfers each year. There are often defined feeder programs too where you can transfer from a branch campus to main campus when you excel. Go from say Ohio State Newark or Marion branch to main campus.

Maybe take a prep class for that entrance exam if your scores are low. Kaplan and Princeton Review are both good for the college exam SAT or ACT test. Kaplan is good from personal experience. I took Kaplan long ago and it boosted my scores. It works because they force you take practice tests over and over under real timed test circumstances with a proctor. There is nothing like taking a three hour exam on a Saturday morning or after a hard days work at 6 pm surrounded by like minded people sweating it out. They will work you like a rented mule! You paid for that. Hey but after you do hundreds of practice questions under time pressure and six full length exams, the real test won’t be too bad. It will be just another day in the testing room just like prep class. No biggie. You will know it cold. That’s the point and why it works. You could also buy the materials and study by yourself but let’s be honest. Most people are lazy and won’t put in as much effort. But in the prep class you will feel the pressure taking exam after exam under the watch of a proctor surrounded by your sweaty peers. It will feel very real. The tutor will explain the answers and why they are right. A book won’t do that. It’s like a basketball player making free throws. Practice and refine and you will shoot like Curry in the big game.

If you didn’t do well on the entrance exam the first time well study hard and take it again. There is no shame in that. Take both SAT and ACT. Then send the best one. Many prep places will let you take the class again for free if you scores did not improve. Be realistic too in setting your goals. Not everyone can get 99%le but 70%le is probably enough for many places.

I don’t have the money for school!

Well then you need to start some place affordable like community college. Then you can transfer to where you want later or go part time while working on the side. If you are short of cash you should not be looking at expensive places like for profit schools anyways. Community college at $150 per credit or say $450 per class is so cheap you can pay that while working at Target and living with mom and pops or roommates.

You can also take loans from the government but be sure you know what you are getting into as they need to be paid back. They won’t go away even if you declare bankruptcy. You will need to live off the grid or move to say Australia to avoid the collections man. Loans are ok if you go to a good place with a good ROI. But the money is not free. It comes from your future paycheck. Think really long and hard before signing any loan papers. As someone who has paid off $50K in student loans I know this reality all too well. It takes a long time of painfully frugal living like a graduate student.

I don’t know what I want to study

Well an expensive place is not the place to figure that out. Again look at low cost community colleges and state universities where you can explore your interests with little money down. Imagine you can take the same introductory accounting or nursing class for $500 or $5000. What if you decide eh this isn’t for me? Well $500 is not too much wasted but $5000 sure is!

See this article in PDF on people who have been scammed by for profits

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