E.B. of Lattingtown, NY writes:

What's the story with so-called "for profit" colleges? I thought all colleges were into making profits? Are these institutions legit?

The College Whisperer responds:

With what colleges and universities charge for tuition these days (never mind room and board), one would think they are all "for profit." Just what do they do with all that money, anyway?

Alas, most traditional colleges are not-for-profit as opposed to for profit (not to be confused with the distinction of private versus public). For profit colleges are just that -- owned by private companies in the business of (guess what?) making money.

Are for profit colleges "legit?" I suppose that depends upon your definition of the word.

You've heard of many of these institutions. Argosy. Phoenix University. Kaplan University. Big-time players in the for profit college game. A business (and that's exactly what it is, a business) raking in hundreds of billions of dollars a year, a good chunk of it from federal loan programs paid for by (guess who?) you, the taxpayer.

So what could possibly be wrong with for profit colleges? Making a profit is, after all, the American way, right?

Well, for those who have not seen the PBS documentary, College, Inc., I would strongly suggest that, if you are even remotely considering forking over thousands of dollars to a for profit college (or taking out loans to pay for same), you watch the video. It can be viewed at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/collegeinc/view/. The story is as compelling as it is, at times, infuriating.

The horror stories are legion:

Hard-core, ultra-aggressive recruiting of students, particularly minorities, not based upon merit, but upon meeting the recruiters' quotas. It's all about the bottom line.

Tuition often far and above the going rate at even the most expensive not-for-profit colleges.

Nursing students who graduate without ever having seen the inside of a hospital.

Students who are saddled with a mountain of debt in the form of college loans they can never repay or discharge.

Paltry retention and graduation rates.

Unaccredited institutions, promising the stars and, after four or more years, merely showing students the moon.

Inferior teaching staff and degrees that aren't worth the paper they are printed on.

And the tales of woe go on and on and on.

Of course, no one, and, certainly, no college, is without at least a few detractors. Then again, the complaints against the for profits continue to mount, in seeming disproportion to those filed against not-for-profit colleges. Even the feds, who dole out millions in Stafford loans, are raising eyebrows. READ, Eyes on for-profit college oversight.

Are for profit colleges right for everyone? Are they evil incarnate? There are no absolutes. Of course, to be foretold is to be forewarned. Be weary of the promises. Be aware of the hype. Know before you go, and, certainly, before you pay a dime in tuition.

Confused? Unsure? Overwhelmed? Understood. Consult your college planning counselor at College Connection to discuss your options, and to successfully navigate the road to the college -- whether for profit or not-for-profit, public or private -- that's right for you!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.

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