For-Profit Colleges

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It’s not really surprising that Corinthian Colleges shut its doors. It’s also not surprising that there are students out there who are angry the schools are closing.

I see two things come from this event.

  1. Everyone with pitchforks who hate for-profit colleges want to see them all burn.
  2. Too many students are upset because they’re now without a completed degree, but don’t understand their degree probably wouldn’t land them a job in the first place.

When it comes to for-profit education, it’s easy to lump all schools together. However they’re not all alike. In the case of Corinthian Colleges, their “campuses” were really just large commercial/retail spaces that taught very specialized material. Everest College was strictly medial, and WyoTech was strickly mechanical. These schools did not provide general post-secondary education in high-demand fields.

You can typically tell what the overall end-goal of a for-profit college is by what it offers students. In Corinthian’s case, they jumped on the bandwagon carrying people who sat at home watching day-time TV and collected unemployment checks. I know, I used to be in that position. That was the only time of the day they advertised, likely for two reasons:

  1. It’s cheap to advertise mid-weekday in a market
  2. The best suckers are the ones who feel most vulnerable and use Jerry Springer episodes to feel better.

The second reason is likely a stretch and generalization, but there’s also a reason Jerry is only on mid-weekday in most markets.

The people protrayed in the ads are those who Corinthian likely hoped would see them: single men and women of all colors who probably had families to feed and insane amounts of debt. They just want to do something good with their life, so why not medial billing or fixing something?

That sounds great, but neither are careers unless you plan on working for a large facility at some point in your life. In order to even be looked at, though, you’ll have to have a full degree from somewhere accredited.

Problems start seeping through the cracks right about now.

Employers cared very little about Corinthian school educations. If two people applied for one job and had all the same qualifications but one got their education at Everest, you know which one the employer will pick.

This became a real problem for a lot of students because the faux job placement assistance ended up being garbage. I’m sure there are a few out there who got jobs, but I doubt they got good jobs. A good comparison is the IT world. There’s a big difference between fixing computers at Best Buy’s Geek Squad for a career, making $12/hour and working on one of Google’s many systems engineering teams, likely making $75/hour.

I do want to say that not all for-profit schools are a waste of time. Quality comes down to what they offer, like I said before. That sounds counter-intuitive, but let me give a great example.

Argosy University. It’s parent company has had their name thrown around before related to other schools in their organization being less than ideal. Argosy University as a school, however, offers actual accredited degrees, however. Some facilities go as high as Ph.D. and Psy.D. level education with industry accrediation. Everest wouldn’t have ever reached that goal with the quality of education they provided.

While I’m sure Argosy’s parent company has had their fair share of exposure for “meh” educational offerings, in post-secondary education, it’s not always appropriate to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Before I wrap up, I want to make it perfectly clear that I used Everest/WyoTech and Argosy as examples because those are examples I am familiar enough with to use as comparisons. I wouldn’t promote or sponsor any of the schools or companies mentioned in this post even if I was paid to, because that’s not right and that’s not what I do on this blog.

I will also make sure to point out that Education Management Corp, the company that owns Argosy University, hasn’t been without its faults, but the level of investigation and potentially shady behavior has been limited to specific schools in specific areas, not the organization as whole.

So with that out of the way, keep an open mind, but don’t be stupid. If it sounds like its too good to be true, it probably is. In the case of Corinthian Colleges, everything they said they did was too good to be true and what they actually provided couldn’t have been farther from what was advertised.