A number of recent studies have cast a negative light on the for-profit college industry. A disproportionate number of students are not graduating or unable to find jobs that pay enough to allow them to repay their student loans. With so many people concerned that these schools might be debt traps, some programs are taking a new approach to tuition.
The folks at SmartMoney.com highlight two companies that seem to be taking their cues from the wireless industry’s (vanishing) unlimited data plans.
For $99/month plus $49/class, students in one program can take as many classes as they want. The other company in the SmartMoney article charges a flat $199/month for unlimited online courses.
That means for around $1,700, you could take 10 classes over the course of a year at the first school. The other online program would run you about $2,400 for the year. Regardless, both are significantly less expensive than the national average of $8,655 for a public, four-year college; and less than 1/10 the price of attending the average private, non-profit school.
For-profit education has been taken to task by regulators who say that too much tuition money, a good chunk of which comes from federal student aid, is being spent on marketing, and who claim that too many of these schools have made education and career placement a second-tier priority.
The founder of one of the online schools offering the unlimited plans tells SmartMoney, “Our model isn’t to spend a lot of money on marketing and charge you on the back end.”
If successful, these schools could be leading the shift in thinking on for-profit college tuition, especially as a growing number of established universities jump into the online education pool.
Of course, all for-profit college and online education programs come with the caveat that your coursework may not transfer to a four-year program. So if that is your goal, you should check with the schools you intend on applying to before you ever sign up for a class at any other college, or you might just be throwing money at a class that won’t count toward a degree.