While for-profit trade schools have become a popular option, they are not all the same. Some schools mislead students about the cost and the quality of the education they will receive. For-profit schools generally offer certificates or degrees that specialize in career and job-related training. And, many tend to enroll students who rely heavily on federal student aid in the form of grants, loans and military benefits. Without that aid, many students wouldn’t be able to attend.
Working towards a college degree is an important commitment, so choose wisely where you invest your time, energy and money.
Nobody can foresee a school closing, like ITT Technical Institute did recently; however if you’re thinking of applying to a for-profit school, keep in mind the following:
• Take time to do your research; it takes a minute to check free reports with BBB.org. Complaint detail and vetted customer reviews are included in the reports. Google the school’s name. See what others are saying.
• Verify that the school is accredited (to award certificates, diplomas and associate degrees) by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. Also check with the U.S. Department of Education
• Be aware of high-pressure sales tactics, like claiming you have to sign up immediately. A reputable school will take time to answer any questions you have, allow you to talk to a financial aid advisor, and not require a quick decision. (Find out if you can cancel within a few days of signing up.
• Beware of any school that guarantees you will get a job after completing its program. Ask for references and contact graduates to see what their experience is.
• Confirm the school’s promises of future wages with third parties to make sure the school is accurate with its message.
• Before you enroll, compare total costs with other for-profit schools and public colleges. (Are there fees for dropping or adding a class? What is the cost for books? Does the community college offer a similar program for a fraction of the cost?)
• Ask plenty of questions when talking to recruiters. Reputable schools will clearly describe the program’s duration, costs and graduation rates. –
• Consider how you will pay for it. If using a federal loan, note that there is a lifetime cap on the total amount of federal loans a student can take out (and you might hit the cap before you’re finished with your education).
• Don’t commit to any program unless you understand what you’ll have to do to complete it. Get details about the required courses and other requirements for the degree/certificate.
• If you’re pursuing a profession that requires a license, contact your state licensing organization to find out what training and credentials it requires. Ask if the school’s program meets the state’s licensing requirements.
• Ask if you can transfer credit you earn at this school to other schools.
• Ask what percentage of students graduate and what percentage of graduates are late in paying back their loans (a high default rate among graduates could be a tip off that students are burdened by too much debt or having trouble finding jobs in their field).
• You can go online to check if a school is accredited by a legitimate organization at the database of accredited academic institutions posted by the U.S. Department of Education or at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation database.
Before enrolling in an online university or other for-profit college, look out for the following red flags:
• No studies or exams. Accredited colleges may give a few credits for specific experience, but not an entire degree.
• No Attendance. Legitimate colleges or universities, including online schools, require substantial course work.
• Flat Fee. Many diploma mills charge a flat fee for an entire degree. Legitimate colleges charge by the credit, course or semester.
• No Waiting. Operations that guarantee a degree in a few days, weeks or even months aren’t legitimate.
• Click Here To Order Now! Accredited colleges don’t use spam or high-pressure telemarketing to market themselves.
• Advertising through spam or pop-ups. Legitimate institutions, including distance learning programs, won’t advertise through spam or pop-ups.Did you like this story? Subscribe to NNS today.