A few days ago while I was running on the elliptical, I noticed something. An ad was on the TV for one of those “technical” online schools. The fine print one line caught my eye: “Credits are unlikely to transfer.”

This was shocking: what kind of school offers classes that are non-transferrable? Well, as it turns out, ones that care more about money than education.

I started doing some research on the nature of these online universities, and I discovered that not only are the credits unlikely to transfer, but degrees from these universities are rare and practically worthless, as Mollie Yacano mentioned in her article last week.

Click HERE to see a government report on the quality of education, enrollment standards, and financial information of for-profit universities. While just about everything about them is horrible, here are some of the worst, most terrifying things about for-profit universities.

The Basics


  •  For-profit universities recruit their students by advertising and phone solicitations. They have open enrollment, so anyone who can pay can enroll.
  • Instead of admissions committees and deans, they have recruiters.
  • Recruiters have enrollment quotas, and their job security depends on having students enroll at any cost. They are openly encouraged to lie and sign them up by any means necessary.
  • “Recruiters” are encouraged to have students sign up for degrees they can’t afford and don’t need. They will accept anyone who can qualify for a federal loan.
  • They are trained to find “leads” and to locate a source of pain in their lives, and to ensure these would-be student that a degree would solve their problems.

But once the student’s are enrolled? The hand holding stops.


  •  The average student of a for-profit university enrolls for 4 months and then drops out.
  • 54% of 4-Year degree seekers  drop out without a degree. 63% of two-year degree seekers drop out without a degree.
  • The money isn’t going to instructing students. In 2009, for-profit universities spent 4.2 billion on advertising, recruitment and enrollment. They spent 3.2 billion on actual instruction of students.
  • The quality of education is found to be incredibly low, unchallenging, and has dubious standards. 80-90% of the staff is part-time. These are not places of education; they’re factories that (unsuccessfully) churn out practically useless degrees.
  • There is little to no career service help available at these universities.  There are 10 recruiters for every career-services employees on average, and two for-profit universities have no career services at all.

What’s the Cost?

For-profit universities are expensive. What’s worse is due to their nontraditional student pool, their students are less equipped to afford tuition. Students at for-profits take out rates at nearly double any other type of university, 96% of students take out loans to attend. Compare this to 57% taking out loans for private universities. It’s pretty scary.

10% of students in the country attend one of these schools, but they take out 25% of federal loans. An even scarier fact: 47% of loan defaults are from students of for-profit universities. Why all these defaults? A combination of high drop out rate and high student unemployment.

My Opinion

The rise of the for-profit university is tightly tied to the demand for higher education. Community colleges are overcrowded, and nontraditional students cannot handle the time-commitments of public schools. Personally, I think taking out huge loans without the promise of a degree is a gigantic gamble. Attending a university with a low quality of education is a waste of money.

And a university that spends more money on enrollment than career placement is horrifying. College is an investment, for-profit college is a waste of money.

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the author

Jillian is better known by her pseudonym “CollegeApp Chick", which is half college application blog and half small private college advising business. She’s currently studying Psychology and Religious Studies at a small public school south of the Mason Dixon line. When not advising, studying, or blogging Jillian is an active member of the Shakespeare theatre club, sandbox improv, women’s chorus, and is an officer in a social sorority. She likes to talk, a lot. Most importantly, Jillian wears dresses more than 250 days a year. For more of Jillian’s tips, find her at her website or her Tumblr.

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