Degree From a For-Profit? I’ll Pass, Employers Say

These schools' credentials are worthless

degree
(Image: iStock.com/Steve Debenport)

For-profit colleges are known for their practices of targeting low income students of color. I’ve written about for-profits before, and still recommend a terrific American Prospect article as essential reading on this topic.

Although the U.S. Department of Education is cracking down on for-profits, the buyer still needs to beware. Television commercials and ads on the subway that promote for-profit schools as the answer are still abundant, though for the vast majority of students, those schools lead to a lot of debt and a slim chance at earning a degree.

But what about those students who do earn a degree from a for-profit school? Are degrees from for-profits valued in the labor market?

Not according to this article about a study from the American Economic Association. According to Education Dive, the study results indicate a “clear distrust of the quality of for-profit education. In many cases, the AEA notes, job applicants with an associate degree from a for-profit college were no better off in the job search than applicants with no college experience at all.”

Here’s an excerpt:

For-profit colleges saw a major growth spurt during the past decade, attracting millions of new enrollees (and billions of dollars in federal education funding) as they expanded online course offerings and worked to attract a range of low-income and non-traditional students that were poorly served by traditional nonprofit colleges. 

But over the past year, the for-profit college education sector has come under fire. The U.S. Department of Education has vowed to crack down on for-profit colleges that are accepting federal education funding but offering students little in return. One major company went bankrupt after paying millions to settle claims of fraudulently advertising inflated graduation and placement rates — and several prominent for-profit university companies are under investigation for similar deceptive practices. 

Critics charge that some for-profit colleges are scooping up federal funds designed to help poor kids pay for college, only to offer mediocre instruction and dismal graduation rates. But there is an argument that for-profit colleges are more responsive and innovative than stodgy universities that have been around for decades or centuries, and are nimble enough to accommodate nontraditional students and design career-oriented programs like criminal justice and health technology. 

Are students being duped into spending money on worthless degrees or are these institutions innovating and serving an important need-filling role? Evaluating the worth of a degree can be very difficult, but one way to judge the value of a degree would be to ask recruiters who routinely hire college graduates for entry-level positions how they feel when they see a for-profit or online college on a student’s resume.

Read more at American Economic Association.



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