Don’t Go To Online College. I Think It’s A Scam.

image - Flickr / Nicole Lee
image – Flickr / Nicole Lee

Turn on the television and you’ll see ad after ad after ad of online colleges requesting you to join their program. They entice you with a better life, a better job, and better pay. It’s a lie. Yes, I’m saying vehemently that you shouldn’t sign up and go to an online college because it’s a waste of your time. Their first goal is to make money off of you, not educate you with the resources you need to have a better life. I am positive that there are exceptions, that a small percentage of those who graduate from an online school end up doing well, but for the mass majority it is a waste of their time, money, and most importantly, their dignity.

The best way that I’m going to explain this is by comparing the national American college loan default rate to its counterpart of the college (university) someone has graduated from. Here we go…

Average: Defaulting on Your Loan.

To default on your loan means you’re unable to make an established payment to your loan in a 270-day period. . (In usual circumstances it counts more for graduated students who are unable to make a significant payment to their loans in a 3 year period). For reference, according to a study done by the New America Foundation, the national average is that 10% of graduates default on their loans. This means that these graduates defaulted because they have a lack of cash due to the lack of a paying job that affords them to pay back their loans. The college experience of these graduates didn’t help them achieve anything to help better their lives.

This analysis of students defaulting on their loans is the measurement we’re going to use when comparing physical colleges versus online colleges. Therefore, before we going into the critique of online colleges, let’s look at the total average default rate and how it compares to all types of colleges in America.

Low Default Rates

According to College Factual, the lowest default rated schools come from top ranked Universities. For example, 2.3% of Harvard graduates default on their loans over a three-year period. I’m assuming that 97.8% of Harvard graduates are employable and paid well – in a three year period. In general, the averages amongst Ivy League schools hover around five percent.

When it comes to top public schools, like UC Berkeley or University of Michigan, their default rate averages to 5%. To be more comprehensive, all public schools average around 15%. In addition, trade and state schools average around the 21% – 25% mark. Now, let’s compare this data to online colleges.

Online Colleges

I’m going to start by saying that I’m going to focus on one online college because there is so much data out that isn’t public, which would be unfair to make false hypothesis to my argument. Therefore, I’m going to focus mainly on an online college whose popularity has grown significantly. The online college I’m speaking of is University of Phoenix. It is a college that whose motto is that you can stay at home or keep your day job because you’re able to attend online college. Essentially, educating yourself while still having a life on the side.

However, it comes with a price. The price is the high probability that you’re not going to be employable enough to pay off your student loans. Why? Looking through their default rate you’ll see that the average of their school loan default ranges to 28% – 35%.

I think is a very alarming number especially because 308,000+ people currently attend University of Phoenix. You can argue that not all of these students are taking out loans, however, based on its default rate you can imagine the mass amount of students who are not benefiting from this online school. In my experience, while working at two different retail and food service jobs, many of my co-workers have joined University of Phoenix to help them achieve a “better life”.

These co-workers would spend up to $5,000 and because of their current income situation they would in fact accrue loans to continue their education. (According to College Factual, the average cost of University of Phoenix is around $16,000 a year). It creates the image that University of Phoenix puts itself as a FOR-PROFIT institution first before an educational one.

I do not have any beef with for-profit companies, but when the output doesn’t reconcile the input, you’re getting screwed. For those in an online college or considering, you need to re-evaluate where it’s getting you. Is this really your only option?

Side Note: you could say that all college institutions are for-profit. But I would dare to argue that at least top tier schools – if you base their accomplishments from their Nobel laureates, their advances in technology, their constant references by the others for their academic opinion on a subject, and most importantly, their record of employable graduates – has in some way geared itself towards an education and people first mentality.

The Caveat

There are a few caveats when it comes to attending an online college. If you’re military personnel in a situation where traveling is a must or a students who need a few extra credits to complete to graduate, then online college is beneficial. But, based on the aforementioned information, online college is best served as a transition then the primary educational path to climb the social and work ladder in America.

Ending Thoughts

If you do decide to go to college, for better or for worse, please look at it as a risk-averse investment: the default rate shows that colleges provide the best and worst resources for an individual to get an employable job that affords them to pay off their loans. And, online colleges are not looking well in the employment department.

There are other ways to get those degrees or learn the skills you need to advance. Sometimes they’re harder, I know. For example, this may be an unfair assessment, when I was 17 I held a full-time job while still taking the time to go to night school at a local community college. I was able to use these community college credits as a great way to transition when I finally attended college. I know others who do the same when it comes to trade schools as well! It’s a harder path, it’s time consuming, but it’s a better investment than sitting in front of a computer screen.

Stay away from online colleges. Don’t be a fool. Stop giving them your money.

Next time I want to argue why college IS NOT a waste of time… but this is for a later time. In addition, the references I used write this article was mostly from, College Factual, and the websites of these colleges I mentioned in this article. Thanks for reading. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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