InfoWorld has a lengthy look at for-profit tech colleges that should be required reading for anyone considering them.
The lowdown: Yes, schools such as such as University of Phoenix, DeVry, ITT Tech and Kaplan can provide a good education, but they also can leave you saddled with debt that can be hard to pay off with the job you'll get. Basically, you'll pay more-usually much more-for easier registration, more help planning your program, ensured availability of classes and online courses tailored to your schedule. That can be important for folks working full-time jobs or serving in the military, but it's vital that students go in with eyes wide open.
I've had my doubts about some of these schools after going in to do interviews as a news reporter and being subjected to the hard sell to enroll in outrageously priced classes. It was all I could do to escape.
The article points to an August 2010 General Accountability Office study of 15 for-profit schools that receive 89 percent or more of their revenue from federal student loans. That study found four schools encouraged fraudulent practices and all 15 made deceptive or otherwise questionable statements to undercover applicants. The Obama administration has proposed reducing student loan support to such schools.
A November 2010 report from the Education Trust found that ... the median debt of bachelor's degree recipients at for-profits in 2007-2008 was $31,190, almost twice that of private nonprofits and more than 3.5 times that of public colleges.
Figures from outside observers show for-profits charge the highest premium for certificate programs, and less of a premium for two-year associate degrees; they come closest to the cost of not-for-profits for four-year bachelor degree programs.
According to the College Board figures for the 2010-2011 school year, tuition and fees averaged $13,935 at for-profit schools, $2,713 at public two-year schools, and $7,605 for in-state students at public four-year schools.
That Education Trust report also notes that loan default rates among for-profit students are about twice as high as that of students at public and private nonprofit colleges.
The InfoWorld article urges potential students to do their homework. In particular, check:
To its credit, the article quotes people who went through these programs and were happy with the education they received, the jobs they landed and the fees they paid. It also tries to ask employers whether they're leery of job applicants from these types schools, though few would comment. One who did said that the school doesn't matter if the applicant has a hands-on knowledge of the technology he or she will be working on and has certifications in that technology.