10 Things to Know When Considering a For-Profit College

Find the right college for you.

Have you ever heard the term for-profit college? You may have seen ads about them on TV or heard about them from friends. For-profit colleges are one of the many postsecondary options students can explore when planning for life after high school. However, because for-profit colleges are focused on generating a profit, it’s important to have all the facts about them. 

Here are 10 things you should know:  

1. Learn What a For-Profit College Is.

For-profit colleges, as the name suggests, are educational institutions run as businesses. Their primary goal is to generate profit for their owners and shareholders. These colleges often offer a wide range of degree programs, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and they may provide online or campus-based education.

2. Study Some Examples of a For-Profit College.

For-profit colleges include institutions such as University of Phoenix, DeVry University, and Strayer University. Each has its own character, so check out several.

3. Be Aware of Historical Concerns. 

Some for-profit colleges have faced challenges and controversy in the past by engaging in behavior that disadvantaged students. Major policy changes have helped address these issues, and more are coming, but it’s important to thoroughly research for-profit schools you might be considering.

4. Understand Accreditation.

Accreditation means a school meets certain standards to ensure that schools provide high-quality education. There are 2 types of accreditations: regional and national. Accreditation is overseen by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. When considering a for-profit college, you should research its accreditation. 

5. Understand Tuition and Fees.

Tuition at for-profit can be significantly higher than nonprofit colleges. This can to higher levels of student debt. Be sure to see if the institution you’re considering accepts federal financial aid. You qualify for federal aid when you fill out the FAFSA®. Financial aid includes things like grants and federal student loans, which have benefits like fixed interest rates and different repayment options. Even if they do accept federal financial aid, for-profit colleges might not offer as much aid or scholarships as nonprofit colleges. 

6. Be Aware of Credit Transfer Issues.

Credits earned at for-profit colleges may not always transfer to other institutions, which may limit your educational and career opportunities.

7. Research Quality Concerns. 

Some for-profit colleges have faced scrutiny for the quality of their programs because their focus on profit can come at the expense of educational quality. Make sure to research the institutions you’re considering and their post-graduation outcomes.

8. Note That For-Profit Colleges Offer flexibility.

For-profit colleges often offer more flexible class schedules, making it easier for nontraditional students, such as working adults, to pursue their education. They also often offer online programs, which allow students to study from anywhere.

9. Look for Practical Programs. 

For-profit colleges may provide programs closely aligned with specific career paths. You have a chance to acquire practical skills and training, especially if you have a career path mind. Find out up front how these programs will lead to a job and if the investment in your education will lead to the lifestyle you expect.

10. Consider the Completion Time.

Some for-profit colleges offer accelerated programs that can help you complete your degree more quickly. These programs might get you into the work force faster, but it’s important to research if your chosen career path will require future training or education. 

Your decision about which type of postsecondary institution to attend should be based on your personal goals, financial situation, and the quality of education you seek. Research your options thoroughly. Talk about these options with school counselors, parents, and trusted mentors so you can make an informed choice.