Commonly referred to as career colleges, private occupational schools, proprietary schools, trade schools, and online universities, for-profit schools are educational companies that are in the business to make a profit. In doing so, for-profit schools are responsive to their investors or shareholders to maintain a profit margin rather than always prioritizing education. While for-profit schools have a potentially important role to play to help meet the growing demand for higher education, the number of publicly-traded or private equity owned for-profit schools now dominate an industry that was once made up mostly of small, independent for-profit schools that have been around for decades.
Many for-profit schools focus on growth-at-all-costs as their business model, evidenced by the billions they collectively spend annually on marketing and recruiting efforts while spending a much smaller fraction of their revenue on instruction. No wonder interest and enrollment in for-profit school programs has skyrocketed in recent years. You’ve seen the ads on public transit, online and on television promising a quick pathway to an exciting and rewarding career. These schools litter the airwaves, web, print and social media with their advertisements frequently touting their accessibility, flexible schedules, rolling admissions, online classes and quick pathways to promising careers.
Some for-profit schools engage in predatory recruitment practices that mislead and/or coerce prospective students into enrolling in high-tuition programs that cost on average much more than public schools or private, non-profit schools. Moreover, these for-profit schools frequently target vulnerable populations of prospective students who are typically from lower income families and/or eligible for federal aid programs, such as Pell Grants and GI Bill benefits, as a way to maximize revenue for the school via a federal funding stream. Students who attend for-profit schools have significantly higher incompletion rates and nearly half of these students end up defaulting on their loans, leaving taxpayers on the hook to foot the bill.
Our message to prospective students and consumers: Do your homework before you enroll or make any financial investment at a for-profit school to avoid being cheated and destined to fail. In particular, learn the facts about for-profit schools and beware of tactics and gimmicks that could serve as warnings that what you see may not be what you get. Ask questions, and get assurances in writing. Verify this information with trusted sources such as family members, educators, school guidance and career counselors. Think carefully about the information you receive and make sure you fully understand what you are signing up for before you commit your time and money. Also, take the time to comparison shop other school programs, including community colleges and public school programs that are usually more affordable, equally accessible and may offer greater flexibility in the long run.
Become an educated consumer so that you can make an informed choice and help Eliminate Deceptive Education Business Tactics (D.E.B.T.).
Learn some basic and essential facts about for-profit schools and the effect they have on students who attend for-profit schools.
Learn to recognize the warning signs associated with deceptive tactics so you can avoid schools that engage in such practices.
Here are some essential questions to ask and have fully and thoroughly answered before enrolling in a for-profit school program.
Learn about the additional resources available to assist prospective students in selecting an affordable school program, the financial aid options and student loan information.