Recently, the Massachusetts Attorney General launched an investigation into for profit colleges that sprang up during the economic slow down but have now disappeared.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley says she’s expanded her investigation of whether for-profit colleges have deceived students in her state about their prices, graduation rates and job placement records. “The more we look, the more we see it as a real problem,” Coakley told the Boston Globe. Coakley identified one school she’s probing — American Career Institute (ACI), which suddenly closed all eight of its campuses in Massachusetts and Maryland last month, leaving students out in the cold, their futures uncertain. – David Halperin, The Huffington Post, accessed 2/4/13
So where does that leave people who want to go to college and improve their job prospects?
Honestly, right back where you started – the local community college system.
This wave of new colleges has seemed a great thing, but for the most part these schools are not accredited or recognized by other schools. That’s why you see “Credits may not transfer” on the bottom of their TV commercials.
There is and has been for a very long time a vibrant community college system in the United States. There are fifteen community colleges serving 190,000 students in Massachusetts alone.
There are some very distinct advantages to community colleges versus for-profit schools:
- They will not disappear – They are owned by the people. They will still be there in the morning.
- They are less expensive – As a rule, it is cheaper to go to a community college than it is a for-profit college.
- They are accredited – The credits will transfer if you decide to go a four-year college.
- They have a much larger course catalog – You can explore all of your interests, not just a single track.
- They are much more respected than for-profit schools – While you might learn the right skills, in general, the name of a for-profit school carries no weight with employers. The local community college is likely to be someplace that they have hired people before.
- Financing is easier – For-profit schools will very often make money by loaning you money to go to school. Community colleges are able to help you get federal funding, so you know what you’re getting in to and can refinance, etc. if you need to.
This is not to say that all for-profit schools are bad. There are many that are fine and can teach you what you need to succeed. Unfortunately, many of their efforts have been watered down by fly-by-night schools that are far more interested in the money they can get from you than they are in your education.