Apr 29, 2009

Soon to come...

I got a blog award from Duni at Lovely Purses a month or two ago and have not yet had the time to put my list of blogs together and acknowledge them all.

Thanks for bearing with me in my attempt to take a break while still being busy. A list is on the way in the near future.

Beware of Online Schools

I have found out a lot about online schools recently...and it all started when I found out mine was associated with scams.

University of Phoenix is currently in the middle of a class action law suit because they are (allegedly) mishandling the funds and records of it's students. After the school changed CEO's a few years ago, former employees allege that admissions were to be gotten at any cost, at the risk of losing their jobs. In 2004, the school was in court for similar charges and were made to pay a few million dollars in fines. The current suit was brought up by "whistleblowers" made up of former employees.

Another allegation is that when a student (more often than not complaining of sub-par courses) withdraws, the school uses the student's information to pay off all loans and then bills the student directly for classes taken. If the student doesn't pay, it's reported on their credit report and UoP refuses to send their transcripts when the student transfers to another college.

The reason they do this is to keep their default rates down. A bit of research will tell you that their default rates are suspiciously low, by any standards. A low default rate enables them to look good to federal funding entities, as well as on Wall Street, as I understand it.

Do I believe this, you may ask? Yes, I do...because I was lied to when I signed up. I was told that if I chose to transfer, all of my credits would transfer successfully. I found out later that NONE of them would. I also found out that employers will laugh you out of an interview if you have a UoP's nowhere near marketable. I know from experience that all of your advisors, who were so attentive when you signed up, refuse to talk to you if you even consider taking time off. They suddenly went MIA and are still impossible to contact. I decided to withdraw completely.

I just found out the other day that, despite having sent in my withdrawal notice before the current session began, that I'm still on their student roster. True to the stories going around about them, they're waiting 27 days so they can "boot me out" based on "non-attendance". I was expecting this, so I made sure I had tangible proof of the date I withdrew and sent my forms.

I'm in negotiations to transfer to a reputable school with excellent credintials, but I'm expecting UoP to be a problem. I have the contact info for the plantiff attorneys for the lawsuit and also for a few of their current and former students who are interested in forming another suit. I'm prepared to seek legal counsel if I need to...all I need is for them to bill me for classes already paid for or to openly deny that I withdrew properly. If I'm forced to, I have no problem being a spoke on the wheel that brings them down. I have a HUGE problem with companies that deceive for profit.

It's not just UoP that's under the gun. Their parent company, Apollo Group, is also responsible for heading other online schools, such as College for Financial Planning and Western International Univ. AIU, WGU, Everest, Colorado Tech and others are also being called scam colleges.

My advice is if you're considering getting your degree online, do your research. I just found out that I didn't do a good enough job in that dept, while I thought I had. Know if the school is for-profit or not-for-profit and assess how this would affect the way they do business. Check the accreditation and then double-check it to be sure it's the kind you need for your career goals.

UoP's ACBSP accreditation for business is not recognized by many employers as a "respectable" accreditation, who prefer AACSB accreditation (the way I understand it, the latter is harder to for a school to get). I recently started telling others to check complaint boards, forums, ripoff reports, etc. for the schools their considering to see how current and former students rate it.

Being smart about choosing a school just got more complicated. With all the perks of the World Wide Web came all the downsides. You can get a quality education just have to do an extra bit of homework before signing your way into one.