While there has been some thought about the power of a college education, there is no mistaking the necessity of one to obtain a higher-paying job. In a recent Pew Research study, it shows Millennials who have a college degree earn on average $17,500 more per year than those with just a high-school diploma. They also earn $15,500 more than those with a two-year associates degree. While it’s been difficult for many millennials to get a job, having a college degree gives them the ability to earn more, but at what cost?
The average student loan debt in 2014 is around $29,000. The overall outstanding student debt has reached $1.2 trillion. That’s an unmistakingly scary figure and one that is a cause for concern. Based on the higher salary levels of college grads, it’s understandable that people are looking for ways to go back to college and earn their degrees. There are a couple solutions, but an increasingly popular one is for-profit colleges.
What is a For-Profit College?
I’m sure you have seen the commercial on TV or online. You also probably know of one of the biggest for-profit colleges, University of Phoenix. These institutions are not funded by any state or agency. They are available to make as much money as they possibly can. They are in the business of education.
There are a number of for-profit colleges around the US. Some are smaller and focus just on specific industries like nursing or technology. Others have a wider range of degree choices. They are geared toward people who work and need the flexibility of earning their degree online or with less school campus interaction. Some don’t even have a campus, but do everything online, except for some administration and testing.
The problem with some for-profit colleges is they can cost you even more than a four-year university when you compare them side-by-side. Most for-profit colleges boast getting a degree in less time and they can provide it, but it comes at a cost.
The Pros and Cons of For-Profit Colleges
While the cost can be prohibitive for some, the reason for-profit colleges are successful is they provide flexibility and fewer admission standards than other non-profit colleges. With the idea of getting a degree in less time, many students sign up for a for-profit college and hope for success.
Pro: Shorter Time to Degree
One of their biggest selling points, for-profit colleges sell the idea of getting a degree in less time than a four-year university. They can do this because their students don’t have to complete as many elective classes. As many of them are online, a student can also handle multiple classes without leaving home.
Pro: Easier Admission
There are many who want to get an education, but they can’t get through the admission process at many four-year universities. This can be damaging to their self-esteem and drive to get into college. The admissions process is much easier at many for-profit colleges. Remember, they are there to make money, so the more students they can enroll, the better off they’ll be.
There are a plethora of for-profit colleges out there to choose from. They handle a wide range of degrees and industries. Their main selling point is flexibility. They are geared toward working adults, so online and night classes are where they thrive. People love flexibility and need it when they have jobs and a family.
For-profit colleges are expensive. They average $13,935 per year, which is twice the average of in-state non-profit colleges around the US. It’s also way more than the $2,713 average of two-year colleges. This means you are paying much more for a degree than you would at other institutions on average.
There was news earlier this year that Corinthian Colleges was embattled with the US government. They are facing a lawsuit about predatory lending based on their student loan portfolio. As with the mortgage crisis, Corinthian Colleges, one of the largest for-profit college operators, loaned out money to students they knew couldn’t pay it back. This just called for problems and big ones at that.
Most for-profit college students need to pull out student loans to afford their degrees, so paying more means they need to have more diligence on what they’re getting for their money.
Con: Degrees Not Always Equal
Not all colleges are the same along with their degrees. There is more power in a degree you get from an Ivy League school than what you get from a community college or small in-state school. This same premise is also around for for-profit colleges. A story on CNN showcased some students who found out their degrees were worthless because of the school they attended. They paid their tuition, but employers wouldn’t hire them due to the school.
While some schools offer quality degrees, many others do not. There is no point in paying more for a degree that has less worth.
Should You Consider a For-profit College?
While there are many pros and cons, the list above are the bigger ones that come to mind. College is not a cheap activity and should be thought about thoroughly before making any commitments. If you plan on going into a trade, then most schools won’t assist you with that. Go to a trade school or community college which teach your specific trade. If you want to increase your education and work toward a degree, then picking a college best suited for you should be your priority. Don’t just look at cost. Find out a colleges accreditations. Take some time to research their offerings. Ask other students and get their thoughts on the courses and faculty. Never assume that getting any degree from any college is going to increase your chances of landing a better paying job.
College is a big step for many, especially those looking to go back and obtain their degree. While for-profit colleges look appealing due to their flexibility and shorter time to graduation, they might not provide you with a degree which is worth your time and money. Don’t wait until it’s too late to find out the college you picked is not worth it. Upfront due diligence is utterly important when choosing to expand your education.
By Grayson Bell, Staff Writer