It’s no secret that education, especially in the United States, has become increasingly monetized. Over 37 million indebted students, owing an average of $24,301, contribute to a national total of $1.2 trillion in student loan debt in the US. While Universities in general have increased their tuition prices, one culprit for student loan debt are for-profit Universities. For-profit schools function as businesses and corporations and exist as both K-12 schools and Universities. Roughly 9% of University students, in both undergraduate and post-graduate degrees, attend for-profit schools, but these students comprise 44% of student loan defaults. Clearly, something is awry in the world of for-profit Universities. Many issues with for-profit Universities have been identified: students at these types of Universities complete four-year degrees at much lower rates, have more difficulty finding jobs after completing a degree, earn less, and nearly all students emerge from their programs with debt. The ten for-profit Universities on this list are some of the most expensive and exploitative – whether they use questionable marketing methods, have extremely high drop-out rates, or leave students with outrageous debt, these for-profit schools are a lethal combination of debt and exploitation.
10 Strayer University
Strayer University has a loan repayment of only 25%, but this hasn't stopped them from falsely claiming that this figure is actually 55%. At only 15%, its loan repayment rate surpasses its graduation rate, but Strayer has made another faux-pas by claiming its graduation rate is 33%. Strayer charges just over $15,000 per year, surpassing the cost of public 4-year Universities by thousands of dollars. However, unlike nonprofit public Universities, Strayer overcharges and over-promises, while offering the bare minimum of services and units that rarely, if ever, transfer.
9 Medvance Institute
Medvance Institute has undergone investigation for dubious business practices. During a study of Medvance’s recruitment process, a government agency discovered that Medvance had encouraged students to falsify information on their FAFSA forms, which must be completed in order to receive government financial aid. Students were encouraged to lie about their total amount of savings in order to receive government aid. Additionally, recruitment representatives were caught telling potential students that student loans didn't have to be paid off. Medvance advocates fraudulent business practices and functions as a corporation rather than an educational institute.
Kaplan is one of the oldest for-profit universities on this list – it was established in 1938, and has been defrauding its students ever since. Kaplan was involved in a lawsuit in 2007 that accused them of a variety of corrupt activities, and the University ended up paying $30 million – pretty manageable, as they charge almost $70,000 for their Bachelor of Science programs. Additionally, Kaplan operates Concord Law School, which is unaccredited by the American Bar Association. Students are permitted to take the California Bar Exam only, and their pass rate is a low 19%. Shockingly, this pass rate is only a fraction higher than the rate of Kaplan students, who default on their loans – 17.3% in 2009.
7 Argosy University
Depending on the courses taken, Argosy charges anywhere from a whopping $450 – $750 per credit hour. However, that’s not the worst part. Argosy University has also undergone extensive legal action. In 2009, students filed a lawsuit against the Dallas campus. These students claimed that recruiters falsified information about the accreditation of their programs, and ultimately, the University paid $3.3 million in settlement fees – hardly a drop in the bucket considering the money they’re raking in from exploited students. The 2009 lawsuit was followed by several government investigations, including an investigation by the Florida Attorney General. Each investigation came to the same conclusion: Argosy is no stranger to fraud and deception.
6 Corinthian Colleges
Corinthian Colleges operated a number of Universities under different headings, including Everest, Heald College and WyoTech. Despite the insanely high cost of tuition ($20,000 per year for its medical assistant curriculum), the average earnings of graduates are dismal. Making an average of $21,000 per year, this salary is nearly $10,000 less than the average yearly earnings of those with only a high school degree, at roughly $30,000. Of the ten Universities on this list, Corinthian Colleges is the only one that has been shut down – after facing an onslaught of lawsuits for fraud, predatory recruiting practices, and general unsavory behavior, the Universities were forced to close.
5 Westwood College
Westwood has the audacity to charge exorbitant rates (try over $35,000 for an associate's degree, while you can attend a U.C. for $13,200 per year), despite its lack of regional accreditation. While Westwood is nationally accredited, the majority of classes and units taken at Westwood will not transfer since it is not regionally accredited. However, Westwood certainly wasn't in the practice of making this information well known and easily accessible for potential students. In fact, Westwood did the exact opposite: it attempted to hide damning information about its programs, in order to secure a higher cash flow - no matter how many lives might get ruined in the process. After a slew of lawsuits, Westwood has finally come clean about the non-existent transferability of its credits.
4 Westech College
Westech was one of the Universities that came under fire when the government anonymously and secretly conducted an investigation into the recruiting practices of for-profit Universities. Westech has been found guilty for a variety of offenses, including outright lying to potential students about loans, encouraging students to commit fraud on their FAFSA forms in order to receive more financial aid, and grossly overcharging students. Programs at Westech cost roughly $15,000 per year, nearly triple the cost of accredited and reliable public state Universities. Additionally, the degrees offered by Westech are often worthless – employers may not accept degrees from for-profit Universities, due to what is often a lower-quality education.
3 DeVry University
While DeVry may not have faced quite as many gnarly lawsuits as some of the other schools on this list, it earns a spot near the top for the sheer number of its colleges and the University’s pervasive nature. If you’re attending DeVry University, you can expect to pay $365 - $609 per credit hour – that amounts to a minimum of nearly $24,000 for an Associate’s degree in accounting. Despite this, DeVry has been found to spend less than $3,000 per year on an individual’s education. DeVry doesn't have the best reputation either – 50% of its on-campus students and 60% of its online students drop out within 3.5 months. It’s no wonder that DeVry has undergone extensive legal investigation.
2 ITT Technical Institute
ITT is one of the biggest names in the for-profit University world. This may account for the exorbitant tuition fees: at $48,000 for a two-year associate’s degree, ITT is one of the most expensive in the business. For a bachelor’s degree, you’re looking to pay $88,000. In addition to extremely high tuition costs, ITT has been accused of a whole host of fraudulent activities. ITT has been found guilty of wrongfully increasing students’ grades, in order to qualify for financial aid and, like nearly every university on this list, has undergone lawsuits for deceitful recruiting practices. Expensive, rife with controversy and on numerous occasions, found guilty of fraud, ITT doesn't deserve the title of ‘University.’
1 University of Phoenix
With a total student body of over 300,000 people, the University of Phoenix is the largest for-profit school in the US and additionally receives the highest amount of federal financial aid, $2.5 billion in 2008 alone. Although this university is extremely popular, the graduation rate is at a dismal 15% (only 5% for online courses) and the University of Phoenix has undergone several lawsuits for an entire host of questionable legal activities. They have repeatedly been chastised for overblown promises about graduation, intentionally misleading prospective students, and rigging the federal grant system – and this is only the tip of the iceberg. With tuition costs at nearly $16,000 per year, the University of Phoenix has certainly been successful with their fraudulent activities. Additionally, the University is notoriously wary of the media and often refuses interviews or cancels them at the last minute – what exactly are they trying to hide?