The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Private For-Profit Schools

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    Prospective students are often faced with the decision of which school to attend. Many of these students are considering attending private for-profit institutions of higher learning. The purpose of this article is to explore the benefits and drawbacks of private for-profit schools.

    The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Private For-Profit Schools

    An increasing number of prospective students are becoming rather fed up with the long waiting lists, lottery-style admissions practices, tedious prerequisite courses, difficult entrance exams, and other aspects that frequently characterize the competitive process of getting admitted into the nursing programs at their local community colleges, state universities, and private not-for-profit universities.

    Do any faster alternatives exist in the realm of higher education in the United States? Does any other type of institution exist that can possibly save a student some precious time while adding a degree of much needed convenience in his/her already harried life? This is where the private for-profit trade schools come into the picture.

    Some of you have probably viewed the tantalizing commercials that advertise these private for-profit trade schools while watching daytime television. Start training to become a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, massage therapist, respiratory therapy technician, medical assistant, dental assistant, X-Ray technician, or dialysis technician. A rewarding healthcare career can be yours in as little as one year!

    Private for-profit institutions do serve a well-defined purpose in higher education in the United States. Some benefits certainly proliferate for the numerous pupils who choose to attend these types of schools. However, the for-profit trade schools are also full of drawbacks. I will readily list the benefits and drawbacks below.

    Benefits for those who attend private for-profit trade schools:

    * Waiting lists are typically nonexistent: Most of these schools offer almost immediate admission without having to languish on a waiting list.

    * Lottery-style admissions are unheard of: I'll reiterate that most of these schools enable students to be admitted with minimal red tape.

    * Some trade schools do not mandate that prerequisite courses be taken and passed prior to admission: Instead, the classes become 'corequisite' courses that pupils take alongside their nursing courses.

    * In many cases, the entrance exam requirements are lenient: I personally know of a school that allows prospective students to take the NET test monthly (for a fee) until they pass.

    * The school's 'campus' is usually small and easy to navigate: While most community colleges and universities are located on large campuses with multiple buildings, many private for-profit trade schools are set up in office parks, strip malls, or other convenient spaces.

    Drawbacks for those who attend private for-profit trade schools:

    * Tuition is prohibitively expensive: Frequently, the tuition for many healthcare programs exceeds the graduate's projected first-year earnings. A generic BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program flourishes at one of these schools with tuition of $132,000.

    * Lack of regional accreditation: The overwhelming majority of private for-profit trade schools are not regionally accredited, which negatively affects transferability of credits earned. Most of these schools are nationally accredited by entities that only accredit other for-profit institutions.

    * Lack of nursing accreditation: Many private for-profit trade schools are not accredited by the NLNAC (National League For Nursing) or the CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education).

    * Employment opportunities are limited: The Veteran's Administration, Department of Defense, and other federal employers shy away from hiring RNs whose nursing programs lacked nursing accreditation.

    * An unspoken bias is present: Some hiring managers admit, on the condition of anonymity, that they will toss a resume into file number thirteen (a.k.a. the wastebasket) if a private for-profit trade school is listed.

    As you can see, the decision to attend a private for-profit trade school is permeated with a whole slew of benefits and drawbacks. However, each benefit and drawback should be pondered carefully, and no snap decisions should be made. After all, one's choice to go to a for-profit trade school can have implications that will last throughout the remainder of one's natural life.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 13, '12
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  3. by   That Guy
    Arent the benefits supposed to outweigh the drawbacks? Low employment, high cost, no accredidation in echange for no wait list and small campus? Im trying really hard to see the benefit of this at all.
  4. by   SummitRN
    Great post commuter! Thought I'd add a bit. The bottom line is that these schools sell a dream to make a buck. That would be find, but often the deal is a fraud and the for-profits are just screwing over their students for a buck.


    • The books and uniforms are included in tuition!
    It blows my mind when students buy that marketing line from the sales (aka admissions) department of a for-profit. Hey, the books and uniforms are included as long as you pay 1.5 to 15 times what non-profits charge. Yea, books and uniforms might appear like a relatively significant cost if tuition is $1-2K a semester at your community college. If you are paying $15K per semester in tuition, books and uniforms are a match on a fire.
    • Great Simulation Labs
    Sometimes a new for-profit may have the best simulation lab in town. Unfortunately, this is often to offset the fact that students of for-profit may be less likely to have a chance to perform skills in the clinical setting (see below).

    • Subpar Clinical Sites
    Many for-profits advertise a long list of great hospitals that they place students at. This bill of goods is sold to potential students. The reality is often only 6 or 8 students will end up at the facility per class while the rest are sent to doctors offices, nursing homes, and day care. Some for-profit students may never see the inside of a hospital in their clinical rotations.
    • Lower graduation rates
    For-profit schools as a whole have drastically lower graduation rates. Having onerous debt and no degree is a high risk. These programs are well known for kicking out students or failing out students who were not properly prepared for the program, but were let in because of the lower entry standards that for-profits have (see Commuter's post).
    • Questionable NCLEX pass rates
    Many for-profit schools have much lower than average NCLEX pass rates. Others have suspiciously high pass rates. The latter is achieved by allowing students to complete the program, then hitting them with exit exams that they must pass in order to actually take NCLEX. Schools filter out anyone statistically uncertain to pass NCLEX on the first try, which can be a large portion of the class. This surprise comes after all tuition is paid (it was in the small print).
    • No Federal Employment
    Regarding federal employment, it isn't that they necessarily shy away from for-profits specifically (though they do as do many hospitals), it is that some agencies will not hire graduates non-accredited programs as a matter of policy.
    • Lack of Scholarships
    For-profits have few if any school specific scholarships to offset their high costs. Most private NON-profits and many public NON-profits schools have many school specific scholarship and grant programs for students.
    • Lack of Reinvestment
    For-profit schools use gross profits for marketing and net profits for bonuses and shareholder payouts. Money is not reinvested for student benefit.
    • Deceptive Practices
    For-profits schools are investigated and fined by federal and state regulators and sued by students at much higher rates than other schools for deceptive, unethical, and illegal practices.
    Last edit by SummitRN on Jun 14, '12
  5. by   tigerlogic
    I've heard rumors that a local one here practically takes the 40k tuition and then stops caring what will happen to students. As facilities get less willing to take those students in ckinicals it'll just get worse too. Be careful!
  6. by   llg

    Brave posts. Good work.
  7. by   TT2seven
    often they take less then stellar students and with herculean efforts like remediations and repeat reviews and tons of tutoring get them to move through until they get to where they can't pass a class or the exit Exam. And now they student owes the goverment tons of money ( ours the tax payers) they they can't pay back.
  8. by   GitanoRN
    enlightening post, which makes you think what the future holds for the new generation in the medical field.
  9. by   lovedijah
    I'm shocked that people pay $132,000 (plus interest) for a BSN. That's insane.

    Yet, some of these schools allow you to start 6 times a year. In the time you spend waiting to get into a public school, you could be a year into a private program. Some people NEED to start working and making money ASAP. I think these private schools open up doors for students, that would have otherwise been closed. Possibly, forever.

    Oh you're a working mother and can't attend morning or afternoon clinicals? Come on down to Bob's RN School!

    You can't get a 95 on the TEAS? Come on down to University of Nurses where we have no entrance tests!

    It costs money to make money, so I can understand that logic for some people. If I need to feed my family tomorrow, Bob's RN School here I come! I'll worry about the rest later.

    Also, I have to snicker at these federal jobs and that being a downside. I wouldn't hold my breath if someone with an oxygen tank was standing right next to me, on getting a federal job. It is HARD. My husband is AD Air Force and hoping to get a federal job after his contract is over. I'm already preparing myself to move to who knows where to the next duty station because even with degrees in engineering and a veterans preference.. it's probably not going to happen! It is hard.

    Also that fact that credits won't transfer? I have the giggles. Please. After paying 132,000 or 73,000 for a BSN- I doubt most of these people are trying to continue their education with all the money they must be paying to Sallie Mae or Direct Loans each month. It's a sad situation and I think lots of people can't even think of continuing their education with all the loans they took on to get a degree from these money snatchers. It's a mess.
  10. by   mmc51264
    I considered going to one those schools for Medical Assisting. It was going to cost 37K for the 2 year degree. I don't think I would ever make that as a yearly salary. I opted to see if I could get into the local CC ADN program and I am SO grateful that I did not go through with the CMA! I have a BS in Biology and they were only going to take so many credits. I only needed the CMA classes, well they wouldn't make their money that way! They did tell me that they would hire me to teach the program after I graduated b/c I have a Masters in Teaching and you can't get an advanced degree in CMA, so I woudl be qualified.
    I am glad I did the ADN. Now I am an RN and have way more possibilities that if I had stuck with the other. I did borrow the max in loans (about 20K) but I know that I will make more than that as a nurse.
    I went to a private-for-profit school for my Masters. Big mistake. 60K and now there are teacher cuts everywhere (hence the reason I had to go back to school) I can't say what the technical for profit schools are like, but the one I went to was really nice and they did prepare us well for our careers.
  11. by   Nursedenver
    i graduated from denver school of nursing a for profit school last year. maybe they are the exception to the rule but i would say (and so have many of my peers at the hospital where i work) that i was better prepared in the skills area then most of the new grads from older not for profit universities. i also passed my nclex easily the first time. it is true that dsn has starts four times a year, making it have almost no waitlist and it does have the most up to date sim lab and simulators available. i think this equipment cost the school a ton of money that they decided to invest back in the school for students like me to get the best training available. it also has higher nclex pass rates than most of the established not for profit universities that charge as much if not more per credit than dsn. i hope to hear from my friends soon that are still attending dsn about their pending nlnac accreditation that should be granted soon, but even without it i know they already have graduates in masters programs at several major universities like duke, tulane and cu bethel college of nursing and university of california irvine. my point is this, i’m proud to be a graduate of dsn and i think every student should do their homework before they pick any school based on the integrity, quality and results the school has to offer, not whether they are a non or for profit institution.
  12. by   tothepointeLVN
    Quote from SummitAP
    <ul><li>Subpar Clinical Sites</li></ul>Many for-profits advertise a long list of great hospitals that they place students at. This bill of goods is sold to potential students. The reality is often only 6 or 8 students will end up at the facility per class while the rest are sent to doctors offices, nursing homes, and day care. Some for-profit students may never see the inside of a hospital in their clinical rotations.

    This was somewhat true at my school except I was one of the 6 all the time to get to go to the hospitals for clinical's. They set the top grop grades wise to the better clinical sites. The downside was I didn't actually get much nursing home experience at all which for a LVN wold have been more useful since I live in a city that for the most part doesn't hire LVN's in acute care though hey you can train in acute care. When I was in acute care I was in a subacute facility. Even the hospitals we trained at no longer hired LVN's. Everyone did get to go to acute care for their last rotation. Overall most students got 2 semesters acute 2 semester nursing home/subacute. I thought my clinical placements were just fine.

    In the city I lived in there are few public LVN programs most LVN's are graduates from a for profit school. Some are better than others. I chose one that seemed to have been round for the longest. I never had a problem with the quality of the education I received. The coursework was tough but fair. But what they absolutely do wrong is they don't screen the candidates well enough. My fundamentals instructor told me that after she noticed that the cohort below us was doing particularly poorly that many had in fact not passed the entrance exam. Now this particular school has a 30 day money back guarantee so they flush them out before the 30 day mark.
  13. by   KendallAZ
    I love this article. It has been hard to find an unbiased piece about the for-profit schools. As for my experience with hiring managers is that there an absolute file number 13 for them. I became close with one manager which we we frequently got into arguments about University of Phoenix's BSN's. Any person with a for-profit BSN would not be even considered. I am purisng my BSN through my community college and local university's concurrent program which totals at about $14,700 TOTAL. The only reason I cannot choose a for-profit option is that I will never be able to afford the the staggering tuition...I mean yes it's a dream but a BSN program that is $60-100,000 should be illegal....thats going to be half your paycheck in payments with interest!

    But I agree, as a mom with two little girls daycare does NOT come cheap on my husbands salary alone. I have considered the for-profit option a million times before and about a thousand times now and again. Especially when you want to be in the hospital so badly doing what you love already. I will say this...If money is NO object that the quick for-profit option will be an easy route. But, if you NEED your paycheck then consider the waitlist...waiting a couple years to start school will outweigh the ten year debt repayment and the stigma that goes along with the your for-profit degree.
  14. by   tothepointeLVN
    On the federal jobs note. Many of my school's clinicals were at the local VA hospital and a couple of my classmates have been hired on at the VA. You couldn't pay me enough to work at the VA though.