When choosing a postsecondary school, basic factors such as location, areas of study, and cost are all important to consider. However, in light of last week’s nationwide shutdown of ITT Technical Institute schools, as well as the high-profile collapse of Corinthian Colleges in 2014, other crucial factors should be considered before making a commitment.
If you’re considering a private college, know what category it falls under—nonprofit or for-profit. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), nonprofit institutions receive funding primarily from student tuition and endowments and, in general, follow the leadership of a board of trustees. Nonprofits may receive some governmental support but operate mostly on private support. For-profit colleges, however, are run by companies that operate based on the guidance of investors and stockholders, and are run, at least partially, to earn money for their owners. For-profit colleges can receive up to 90 percent of their revenue from federal student aid.
Prospective students of private institutions, especially for-profit entities, need to do thorough research before enrolling. The Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) provides tips to consider, such as:
- Investigate a school by interviewing students already in the program.
- Thoroughly review the enrollment agreement to understand all binding terms, conditions, costs, and student disclosures.
- Contact the agency that the school claims to have accreditation from and verify the claims.
- Check to make sure the school’s program qualifies you for the state licensing exam or degree you’re seeking.
- Check BPPE’s website for a list of California-approved schools.
- Request to see the school’s student completion and job placement rates.
- Carefully review and verify advertising claims.
- Know the amount and types of financial aid you’ll need.
In addition, NCAC encourages students to ask about the school’s loan default rate and whether credits can be transferred to a public institution. Also, be on high alert if a school recruiter is using high-pressure sales tactics, rushing you to commit and enroll.
Despite recent closure news, don’t be discouraged from achieving your higher education goals—instead, use them as cautionary tales. Not all private colleges are “diploma mills,” but before signing on the dotted line, take the time to know exactly what you’re getting into.
“Achieving your educational goals is an investment of your mind, time, energy, and money,” said BPPE Bureau Chief Joanne Wenzel. “Make it worth your while.”
Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education: www.bppe.ca.gov
U.S. Department of Education College Affordability and Transparency Center: https://collegecost.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard: https://collegescorecard.ed.gov