Perhaps you saw the TV commercials for Everest College over the past few years. “Why don’t you make a phone call that’s going to help you in your future?” one of them implored. “Why are you making it complicated? It’s easy.”
But it’s not just Everest. As The New York Times reported Friday, “Education Management Corporation, ITT Educational Services and Career Education Corporation, among other familiar names, are also facing investigations.”
It’s about time. There is seldom a good reason to attend a for-profit college.
What exactly are for-profit colleges?
When most students head off to college, they attend either a public university (say, the University of Alabama, home of the national football champions) or a private one (I attended two: the University of Miami and American University in Washington, D.C.)
Most of these schools are decades or even centuries old, and they have a track record you can research: How many students actually graduate? What kinds of jobs do those graduates get? What’s the average cost of tuition, dorms, and meals per year?
For-profit colleges are different. They’re essentially businesses out to make money — as all businesses should. Problem is, they often charge more for the same education you can get at public institutions.
That’s not just my opinion. Last summer, a U.S. Senate committee issued a scathing report that charged for-profit colleges with “exorbitant tuition, aggressive recruiting practices, abysmal student outcomes, taxpayer dollars spent on marketing and pocketed as profit, and regulatory evasion and manipulation.”
How can I get a good education at the right price?
The TV commercials from for-profit colleges are enticing. They appeal to hard-working Americans who don’t have a lot of money to spare on tuition, or who have been working in the “real world” for years and want to replace their job with a career.
And let me be clear: Not all for-profit colleges are as bad as that Senate committee reported.
But if you’re looking to go to college to improve the quality of your life — and not to party or go to football games — then you have some money-saving options. Check out Making College Affordable.
But if you don’t have time to do that, at least consider these Top 2 pieces of advice I’ve seen work for my Consolidated Credit customers…
1. Going to a cheaper community college. The simple truth is, even if you seek an advanced degree, your first two years are just to get your associate’s degree. And some states, like California, will guarantee your transfer to certain four-year schools if you get good grades and meet other requirements. At the same time, many community colleges are starting to offer four-year degrees.
2. Applying for scholarships. Did you know there are $6 billion worth of scholarships out there? Yes, with a B! Finding them is a website away. Check out College Board’s Scholarship Search tool.
Bottom line: You have to pay for college, but you don’t have to pay as much as some schools insist you do.
Howard Dvorkin is a CPA and chairman of Debt.com, an educational resource for those who want to conquer all forms of debt in their lives.