ABCNEWS: How to Evaluate a for-Profit College: a Consumer’s Guide

Career College Central Summary:

  • Commercial schools have been around for centuries, providing training in fields like accounting and construction that loftier educational institutions did not always offer. America's first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller Sr., completed a course at one such school, Folsom's Business College in Cleveland, 1855.
  • But these days, for-profit colleges are under fire. Federal investigations found that many for-profit schools have low rates of graduation and job placement, and that they target low-income students who are eligible for federal loans. The schools pocket the loan money for tuition, but when students drop out or can't find jobs, they can't repay those loans. If they default, the taxpayers lose, too. For-profit students make up 47 percent of all federal student loan defaults, according to a 2012 Senate investigation.
  • And yet, the appeal these schools hold is understandable. They're often easy to get into, and they do a great job marketing themselves as a way to enter careers in trendy or growing fields like technology, marketing or health care.
  • "For-profit schools do offer a practical option for many seeking education and training in high-demand fields. Otherwise these schools would not survive," said Richard Ruch, former dean at DeVry University and author of the book "Higher Ed, Inc.: The Rise of the For-Profit University" (Johns Hopkins University Press).
  • Here are some tools for evaluating the quality of for-profit colleges. While it's especially important to do your homework if you're considering a for-profit school, these resources can be used to judge traditional colleges as well.

    • The National Center for Education Statistics at offers data collected and analyzed by the federal government.
    • Under "School Search," click "College Navigator," and on the left-hand side of the page, pick a state or type of institution, or type in a school name. Listings for individual schools say whether they are for-profit, public or private not-for-profit schools. Each listing contains a wealth of data, from tuition prices to campus security, which includes crime statistics.

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