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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Friday, March 15, 2013

Dangers of private for-profit colleges



By Clark Howard


Are you enrolled in an online school? The brouhaha with for-profit colleges like University of Phoenix points to a great problem in higher education -- the easy availability of student loans.

University of Phoenix was once the most innovative leader in the distance learning arena. But today the school is buried under a black cloud and facing probation. They allegedly lost their moral compass and started signing up students who shouldn't have been in their programs. Why? Because doing so meant more student loan money.

Meanwhile, private for-profit technical schools leave students with the heaviest burden of student loan debt, according to a new report from the College Board.

I have long believed that education is the key to climbing the economic ladder. But that doesn't mean necessarily mean traditional college is the way to go; it could be a trade or technical school for some people.

Interestingly, trade schools can be both the cheapest and most expensive option. How is that possible?

Well, you can get an education for little or no money at a state-supported tech college. But as a rule, these places aren't exactly known for their customer service in the admissions department. There are, of course, some exceptions.

Or you can go to a for-profit tech college that does heavy advertising on TV and promises an insta-education in about 12 or 18 months. These schools typically use high-pressure recruiters to get you to sign up. They're noted for their customer service in the sense that everyone is happy to see you in the admissions office. They want you to sign for those student loans!

Not surprisingly, the overwhelming amount of student loan defaults are at private for-profit technical schools.

Here's the key rule to remember when borrowing for any kind of education: Your loan obligations should not exceed your expected first year's salary.