Do Your Homework Before Choosing For-Profit Career College
Get up to speed on career colleges.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel via Yellowbrix
October 29, 2010
That same student makeup also explains federal loan default rates, according to the association. While higher than other types of colleges overall, the rates are similar when compared to individual schools serving low-income students, Cohen said.
“If we as a society want to give lower-income people and working adults access to higher education, there is clearly more of a risk,” said Harris Miller, CEO of the association.
The greatest risk, though, is not for the schools, since they receive their money up front, but to the students taking out the loans and ultimately, to taxpayers. Unpaid loans follow former students through life, can ruin their credit and lead to serious consequences, including the federal government garnishing their wages and withholding their tax refunds. Even declaring personal bankruptcy is not an option to shed student loan debt, except in rare cases.
“You want to be very careful as a consumer taking on a huge amount of debt based on the assumption that you’re going to have a great job that will make it manageable to pay off,” Asher said.
Career colleges place about 70 percent of their students in jobs, Miller said, though there is no research on whether graduates are financially better off than before they enrolled.
In South Florida, educators, job recruiters and employers say the quality and value of a career-college education varies.
“There are some very fine, in my opinion, for-profit institutions in our local community,” such as Keiser, said David Armstrong, president of Broward College, formerly Broward Community College.
Those schools meet the same accreditation standards as public and nonprofit colleges. But others are accredited by less reputable organizations created “for the purposes of being able to qualify (schools) for federal financial aid,” Armstrong said.
Career-college students routinely apply to the private, nonprofit Nova Southeastern University only to find their coursework is not accepted.
“I don’t think there’s a month that goes by that we don’t hear some kind of really tragic story of somebody who spent a lot of money at one of these institutions and then tried to transfer into either our institution or a state university, and the credits don’t transfer in,” said Nova Chancellor Ray Ferrero Jr.
Some recruiters say the degrees can still be valuable in the marketplace.