By: Karly Berezowsky
For-profit colleges have landed in the spotlight for deceptive advertising and unaccredited degrees. Also known as “diploma mills,” these institutions promise job placement to recruit students and the Career Education Corporation, for example, has falsified its numbers.
More than 70 percent of college students are considered non-traditional by the U.S. Department of Education. This means they may be the first in their family to go to college or are balancing a job and a family while earning a degree. For these college students, a traditional university is not the best fit.
Non-traditional students value the flexibility in class offerings and the low cost of for-profit institutions such as Kaplan University, University of Phoenix and DeVry University.
But potential students have to weigh the “diploma mill” stigma when applying to for-profit schools such as the Career Education Corporation, which has campuses in 23 states, making it one of the largest for-profit education companies in the United States.
In November 2011, New America’s Higher Ed Watch reported that Career Education Corporation revealed to the Security and Exchange Commission that it had “engaged in improper placement determination practices at many of the company’s schools.” Out of the 49 schools in question, only 13 had “rates high enough to meet the accreditor’s minimum standards.”
The National Consumer Law Center’s 2011 report argues that many states, such as Florida, should crack down on “fraud and abuse” in the for-profit sector by creating “student tuition recovery funds.” The report encourages states to adopt rigorous refund policies for students who have paid for worthless diplomas at for-profit schools that are engaged in “fraudulent practices.”
Florida is doing some of that.
Jenn Meale, director of communication for Attorney General Pam Bondi, said that, “The Attorney General’s Office currently has several investigations involving for-profit colleges for alleged violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.”
Yet there are those who believe a for-profit college education is beneficial for students in the long run.
Brian Moran, executive vice president of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, said that, “For-profit colleges and universities play an important role in higher education and to students looking to achieve the American dream by obtaining an education directly related to their career goals. The overwhelming majority of private sector schools have proven invaluable in preparing students with unique challenges for competing for jobs in a challenging economy.”
Most students who attend for-profit colleges are working adults who must balance higher education, full time employment and personal commitments. Career-oriented colleges provide online courses, flexible course schedules and programs that expedite entry into the job market. Yet the value of the education is of concern when fighting for jobs in a turbulent economy.