Here are the four biggest potential problems with for-profit colleges.
1. Acceptance rates are high. If a student is trying to get into college and struggling with rejections, it makes sense to apply to a for-profit college with a high rate of acceptance. However, high acceptance rates are often tied to a lower quality of education.
If a school has low standards for students entering into a program with the college, it could mean that the college is only concerned with the money that will be made when students attend classes. Classes may be overcrowded, and the intensity of academic programs may be reduced to allow students with lower grades and abilities to keep up with courses.
2. Too much debt for students who can’t afford it. Financing an education is hard, and for-profit colleges tend to be in the mid-range for tuition and fees. For-profit colleges hire recruiters who are experts at convincing low-income students that they can afford to attend college by taking out loans available through the school.
What’s wrong with this picture? Loans start to pile up quickly as students work their way through an academic program. It is not uncommon for college students to graduate with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. This debt is made worse when students drop out because coursework is beyond their abilities. Dropping out of college after amassing a large debt means that a person will be unlikely to find a job to pay their debts off.
3. Half of tuition goes toward something other than academics. Non-profit schools are able to put much of the tuition money that is received from students toward hiring high-quality faculty members, establishing a curriculum that is in line with country-wide standards and developing extracurricular programs that enrich a student’s overall academic experience.
For-profit schools need to attract students in order to turn a profit. This need to attract students means that for-profit colleges spend a lot of the tuition that is received from students on marketing and recruiting efforts.
4. Accreditation doesn’t always mean that a for-profit college is reputable. Many for-profit colleges attract students by becoming accredited, but recent studies suggest that the accrediting bodies may not use stringent standards. Money may also be a motivator for accrediting bodies.
Self-reporting and peer reviews are two key aspects of the accreditation process. Unfortunately, for-profit colleges that are more interested in making money than providing a quality education for their students could be dishonest in the accreditation process. Students often find themselves struggling to find employment after graduating from a for-profit college with a shady accreditation.
Some for-profit colleges provide a quality education, but students must take it upon themselves to research these schools prior to choosing the right college for their needs. Rankings and reviews from past students are two tools that can make choosing a for-profit school easier.