Have you recently graduated or about to graduate and looking forward to embark on the next step of your education in a higher education institution? Or are you a parent weighing the options for your child, evaluating the myriad of options available out there? Whichever the case is, it is very important to assess the offerings out there, especially so when your options include private commercial institutions, be it an online degree course or a brick-and-mortar college.
With the cost of higher education continuously rising, so are the number of for-profit place of study ranging from online institutions that offer many different degree paths to career-focused schools that offer training for a specific career pathway.
While there are certainly many great for-profit private schools around, it is sad to say that there are also quite a handful of commercial colleges that are just in it for the profits. With college loan debts continuing to balloon at a rapid pace, it is prudent to carefully evaluate the financial requirements of the entire course, not just at registration or at enrollment.
So how do you tell a private school that’s worth your time and money from the bad eggs that give the industry a bad name in recent years? While every situation is different depending on where you’re based, there are some clear warning signs that should raise alarm bells. While this is not meant to be an exhaustive list, here are some red flags you should keep an eye on, and run as far away as possible when you spot any of these signs!
Hard Selling Tactics
Spend some time visiting the school’s sales office. Observe how the consultants interact with prospective students and parents. Take a seat and ask questions. If you see hard-sells and high-pressure sales tactics happening all around, that should be a major red flag.
If your consultant lacks a genuine willingness to help you assess your academic interests and aspirations, and is only concerned with getting you to sign up, you should proceed with extreme caution.
Lack of Accreditation
Higher education and university accreditation and ranking systems can be confusing and complicated, depending on the city or country you’re based in. Even where there are no global coverage for institutions in your area, it is important to at least ensure that the school you are considering are properly certified and accredited by the local regulating bodies.
It is not surprising to hear from time to time, cases of unlicensed companies fronting itself as a legitimate school authorised to sign up and collect fees from unsuspecting students and parents. You can usually check the school’s name, registration numbers and official addresses at your city’s education department or regulating body’s website. When in doubt, it always pay to clarify further.
Guarantees of Employability
It is plainly misleading for a school to make claims such as assured employment opportunities for graduates. Sure, they may present you with ‘evidence’ and stress the point that numbers don’t lie. Be very wary of any claims or statistics relating to employment made by the school. A statement such as “95% of our students are gainfully employed after they graduate” should be probed further.
That piece of stat is only meaningful if those former students found employment within a reasonable time-frame, and are working in the field they studied and aspired for. For all it’s worth, a big proportion of that 95% might be slogging their heads off at fast-food joints in order to pay off their steep study loans.