For-Profit Colleges & Universities
Over the past decade, our office has seen an increase in the number of for-profit colleges and universities doing business in Iowa, a trend that is mirrored nationwide. Many Iowans have been attracted to the claims of versatility and simplicity made by these companies.
Unfortunately, a significant number of for-profit postsecondary education providers employ unfair and deceptive practices to lure potential students, including: high-pressure sales tactics, misleading placement statistics, unfair fees, and misrepresentations about the career opportunities afforded to graduates of their programs.
Consumers can protect themselves by resisting the pressure applied by aggressive admissions staff to enroll immediately. Instead, they should:
- Consult with employers to determine if they are familiar with the institution’s program, and if they hire its graduates.
- Perform a simple internet search of the school’s name to see if it yields a significant amount of negative press, consumer complaints, legal action against the company, etc.
- For professions requiring a license or other credential, contact the licensing entity to determine whether the school’s degree program satisfies the requirements for licensure.
- Compare the average salary for the profession in question to the cost of the degree program to ensure the program is a good value.
- Determine the amount of student loan debt that will be accrued during the duration of the program. Use online repayment calculators to ensure repaying student loan debt will be feasible upon graduation. This is an important step as student loan debt is difficult to escape, even through bankruptcy.
- Contact educational institutions, including community colleges and four-year institutions, to compare the cost of their programs to those offered by the for-profit institution. The advertised convenience sold by for-profit institutions often comes a premium price.
Consumers interested in enrolling in a for-profit college or university should ask lots of questions, and make sure they receive complete and satisfactory answers in writing before they enroll. If the school is unwilling to provide the information necessary for a consumer to feel confident in their decision to enroll, consumers will be best served by walking away and finding another institution for pursuing their degree.
888-777-4590 (outside of the Des Moines metro area)
Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Consumer Protection Division
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0106