In March, Argosy University became the latest chain of for-profit colleges to announce a sudden and unexpected closure after the United States Department of Education ended their ability to access federally-backed student loan funding, known as Title IV funds.
In response, the California Office of Student Assistance and Relief (OSAR) has begun the process of helping Argosy students make decisions about their next steps. OSAR has conducted student workshops at or near Argosy campuses to offer students personalized assistance in the process of determining how they can transfer and continue their education, or whether financial restitution through federal student loan discharge programs or the state’s Student Tuition Recovery Fund is right for them. Those workshops will continue.
But if you’re a prospective student at the start of your education journey considering a secondary institution, what are some things that you need to know about selecting a school?
“There are many for-profit schools in California that do a great job of exceeding minimum standards and offering a quality education,” said OSAR chief Scott Valverde. “But it can be risky to enroll in a private school if you’re coming from a place where you haven’t taken advantage of the resources available to you as a prospective student.”
OSAR offers information to students about schools, programs, accreditation status, compliance history, and other resources that can help students evaluate if a school is the best option for them. Prospective students have access to those resources on the Researching Colleges section of OSAR’s website.
Here are some red flags that students should be on the lookout for, courtesy of the Better Business Bureau.
1) High pressure sales tactics. “Predatory lending practices are major red flags,” according to Valverde, “including not going over the details of a loan or financial agreement, or unwillingness or inability to answer questions about loan obligations.”
2) The school does not disclose information, such as total costs and graduation rates, as required. Recruiters should not be afraid to answer all of your questions, but students shouldn’t take everything recruiters say at face value. Says Valverde, “We encourage students to do their own research on how employers value the degrees or certificates for the programs they’re enrolling in, and to not rely exclusively on the placement or employer info provided by the school. At OSAR, we give them the tools to do some of that research on their own directly with employers.”
3) The school is not accredited by a federally recognized accrediting body or approved to operate in California. Students who attend an unapproved school may not be protected by California laws if the school closes unexpectedly. “We encourage students to review the school’s accreditation status, or if they’re required to be approved by another licensing party to make sure they’re in good standing with those entities,” says Valverde.
4) Bad reviews. Look online for information from past students about their level of success finding a job in their chosen field after graduation. You can also visit the school and talk to current students.
5) The recruiter encourages you to lie on financial aid forms. The Government Accountability Office, which provides nonpartisan information to Congress to aid lawmakers in crafting legislation, found examples of recruiters encouraging students to lie on financial aid forms so that the university would get more in federal student aid. Students found to be lying on a financial aid form face repayment on money borrowed and potential additional fines and prison time.