For many people, college planning begins at a very young age — around 15 or 16 years old– and as high school students become sophomores and juniors, they start thinking about which colleges they want to attend, what they want to study, and even the type of career they want to have. Although these plans may change, the core framework begins, and these students’ dreams begin to become reality.
Traditionally, young students determine the GPA they’ll need, extracurricular activities in which they should participate, and the level of SAT or ACT score they’ll need to achieve their goals. Some schools have especially stringent admission standards. For instance, most students who are accepted into Columbia have GPAs in the “A” range (around 3.4 or above); they also have SAT scores of at least 2100, or ACT scores of at least 30, according to About.com’s college admission graphs.
These days, however, the college market as a whole is quite a bit different than it was 15 or 20 years ago. From 2000 to 2010, the number of degree-granting institutions increased by around 10%, according to data published on the National Center for Education Statistics. Many schools began offering online degree options during that time period, and some schools were developed as exclusively online schools. The traditional way of doing things — send in your letter, GPA, and test scores — is not necessarily the way students go about getting into college anymore.
Today, so many universities automatically accept students, and coursework can be completed entirely online. During this transition, some schools have thrived, as have the students who have graduated from these schools. Other institutions, however, have gained bad reputations.
These colleges and universities have made news headlines. Some been coined “wastes of time and money,” and others have been called “pay for degree schools.” Is there any truth to these claims?
1. Everest College
- Average Yelp review: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Everest College (also known as Everest Institute or Everest University) offers online and accelerated degree programs in healthcare, business, IT, and other career fields.
Most people have heard of Everest College — they’ve seen the commercials, heard about it from a friend, or they’ve read about the school somewhere. Odds are, if you have heard of Everest, you may very well have heard something negative. In addition to poor reviews on Yelp and Consumer Affairs, 144 people gave the institution an average review of 2.3 out of 5 stars, and only 18% of Glassdoor users would recommend it as a place of employment to a friend. Some Everest campuses have better ratings than others.
Everest College Alhambra, one of the higher rated campuses, reports that “of the 516 students who began school, zero students were qualified for an exclusion from the cohort. Of the 516 students, 375 completed their coursework and graduated within the allowed timeframe. Therefore, the school’s graduation rate for those students is 73 percent.”
Students may be graduating, but the school has had problems finding employment for its grads, and it has made headlines for its extreme job placement methods. Last year, the Huffington Post reported that the college paid $2,000 to have one of its graduates placed in a job position for at least thirty days. Why? The school must meet certain job-placement numbers to satisfy accreditation requirements.
Users on Grad Report, a website where students can share their school experiences with other students, have overall negative reviews of the school. However, around one-third (31%) of Everest Grad Reporters say this school helped their career, and 63% of Grad Reporters who completed the medical assistant program say they are now employed. Therefore, the school is doing some good.
2. University of Phoenix
- Average Yelp review: 2 out of 5 stars
University of Phoenix has been called a “pay for degree school.” One Yelp Review says “Bottom line, University of Phoenix degree is worthless in real world. Employers know [it’s] a joke and will file your resume at the bottom of the stack or simply throw it away. This and many other online and for profit colleges that have been popping up in the last several years are the biggest scam on the planet perpetrated upon the American public.” Some may say that’s just one opinion, but there are several others just like it. The institution receives 1.5 out of 5 stars on Consumer Affairs.
The school’s accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission was also placed on notice a while back. “University of Phoenix is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission which is a member of the North Central Association. University of Phoenix has been placed on Notice by the Higher Learning Commission. Notice is a Commission sanction indicating that an institution is pursuing a course of action that, if continued, could lead it to be out of compliance with one or more Criteria for Accreditation.” This is still listed on the University of Phoenix website.
Some students do portray the school in a more positive light. Fifty-eight percent of users on Grad Report would recommend the school to a friend, and another 59% say their degree from Phoenix has helped their career. Grad Reporters from the business program report average salaries of around $53,000, and 86 percent of these grads say they are employed. Therefore, the school is doing some good for some of its grads.
3. DeVry University
- Average Yelp review: 2.5 out of 5 stars
DeVry, a school known for catering to “working adults,” offers both online and traditional degree programs. A little over a year ago, DeVry made headlines because its medical schools in the Caribbean were charging higher tuition rates for lower educational standards.
“DeVry, which has two for-profit medical schools in the Caribbean, is accepting hundreds of students who were rejected by U.S. medical colleges. These students amass more debt than their U.S. counterparts — a median of $253,072 in June 2012 at AUC versus $170,000 for 2012 graduates of U.S. medical schools,” according to Bloomberg. “Many DeVry students quit, particularly in the first two semesters, taking their debt with them. While the average attrition rate at U.S. med schools was 3 percent for the class that began in the fall of 2008, according to the AAMC, DeVry says its rate ranges from 20 to 27 percent.”
DeVry also receives low average reviews from Yelp, Consumer Affairs, and Online Degree Reviews. Of the users who reviewed DeVry on Grad Report, 46% say they would recommend this school, and 38% say their degree improved their career. Those who graduated from the business and information technology programs report salaries of $40,000 and $45,000 per year, respectively. Overall, the reception appears to be mixed — some students had a positive experience and others had a negative experience.
This list could go on forever, as several schools have negative student reviews. Fifteen people gave ITT Technical Institute an average of 3.1 out of 10 stars on Online Degree Reviews, and Yelp reviews are also pretty low for ITT. However, Penn Foster receives lower reviews on Online Degree Reviews, but somewhat higher reviews on other sites, like Grad Reports.
When reviewing a school, it’s wise to review several resources, as opposed to simply reviewing one or two review sites. This way, you refrain from basing your decision off a few bad experiences.