“Help! I called an online school to ask about their degree program in healthcare and now they won’t stop calling me. They’ve called like five times this week. Now they have my cell number and want me to sign student loan papers. I feel like I’m being harassed by a bill collector.”
Potential Online Student
Students often complain to us that they’re getting a hard sell from admissions reps at for-profit online colleges and schools. We’re not surprised. Over the last few years, several class-action suits have found for-profit schools guilty of employing aggressive and misleading tactics to rush online students toward enrollment.
Under scrutiny, many for-profit online universities have cleaned up their acts. But a select few still use hard-sell tactics to lure students especially when it comes to getting students to sign loan paperwork.
These tricks are not illegal, but they can rush you into making a premature—or wrong—decision.
Don’t kid yourself. A college degree is an expensive item. According to the Project on Student Debt
the average undergraduate student (Class of 2006) left campus dragging $21,100 in debt behind her.
And that’s just the average college debt.
Many will pay more to add a bachelors degree to their resume. GetEducated.com’s rankings of online college degree affordability show that an online bachelors program in psychology and human services can cost as little as $12,000 -- or as much as $75,000.
$75,000 is a lot of money. More than the sticker price of most luxury cars.
With that much money on the line, and rising college costs, don’t be surprised if you encounter online school admission reps who sound—and act—like used car salesmen.
College is a big ticket item whether you attend online or the traditional way. Approach the purchase of an online degree as cautiously as you would any other expensive consumer product.
Looking to enroll in an online degree program? Get Educated now about the top seven ways for-profit college admission reps pressure students. Once you’re familiar with these methods, you can ignore them, fight them, or—better yet—enroll in an online university that doesn’t use them.
Trick 1) You Tell Me Everything – I Tell You Bubkus
We called three online universities to ask about their online healthcare degrees. All of them quizzed us: name, address, phone number, number of college credits, on-campus or online, married or single, military or civilian?
Even after disclosing these details, we couldn’t get the basic information we needed about course cost, pricing or how long the online degree program would really take.
It’s okay to answer questions about yourself. Indeed colleges need this data to help “qualify” you for their degree programs. But if you give out your mobile phone don’t be surprised if reps persist in contacting you by all available means.
If you want to be taken off any college’s call list, just ask. If you’ve decided that the college is not for you, request that your number be permanently placed on their Do Not Call list. By law, online universities have to comply with your request, just like every other business.
Trick 2) College Online is Easy and Fast
Romney Becker, an online student who earned her associate degree in business through Apollo Group’s Western International University, says her admission reps seriously downplayed the effort required to get a distance degree. Her admissions rep at WIU told her, “I know a lot of students that get A's that put in ten hours of work a week.”
“That’s a lie,” says Becker. “Online education is a lot more work; it’s twice the reading, twice the writing.” College is never easy.
Research studies confirm what Becker claims: online education takes more time, plus better-than-average writing and communication skills.
Trick 3) College Online is Free
Admissions reps often specialize in making it sound like money or online college financial aid isn’t going to be a problem. Our personal admissions rep at the University of Phoenix evaded all questions about whether we’d be able to afford the cost of the advertised degree.
Instead, he told us that 100 percent of his schooling had been covered by "financial aid".
That might be true for him, but until you investigate your own situation, you don’t know whether it’s true for you or not.
In addition financial aid for online degrees is mostly loans, not grants, so even if your online education is “covered,” you may end up owing tens of thousands of dollars. A student loan is not “free money”— no matter how many times the admission rep calls it that.
Trick 4) College Online is Fast
Mathew Often, a former online student, was told that it would take him a year and a half to finish his distance bachelors degree through the University of Phoenix’s Flexnet (part online, part on-campus) program.
But after he completed the “welcome-back-to-college” class that UoP offers all students, he was informed that his next class wouldn’t be available for three to four months. “And then I found out … that it was going to take me several years to actually get through the entire program using Flexnet with the scheduling the way it was,” he says.
Trick 5) I’ll Be Here for You Every Step of the Way
Mathew Often’s admission rep at Flexnet told him she’d be his advocate through “the entire process.” In reality, says Often, she vanished from his life once he was enrolled in the bachelors degree program.
According to Vicki Wagner, who has worked in three proprietary (for-profit) school admission offices, reps rarely follow online students past enrollment. Moreover, Wagner reports that admission reps have a very high level of turnover. Among the schools where Wagner has been employed, one hired 17 different admission reps in a single year.
Assume that your admission rep won’t be there once your paperwork is completed. If a rep promises you any type of special treatment get that promise in writing, the same as you would for any high-ticket consumer product.
Trick 6) You Don’t Really Want to Be an RN
For-profit education is a business. Like any business, online colleges often have more product—
classroom seats, that is—in certain degree programs than there is demand. In these cases, front-line admission reps may be called upon to manufacture more demand among potential students.
Potential online students may experience this as pressure to enroll in these less popular degree programs so that the college can fill all their classes. “If you come in to be a horse jockey, we’re going to put you into the registered dental assistant program, because we need you to be there,” reports Wagner.
Wagner worked at one school where admission reps literally steered every prospective vocational nurse towards another program—programs that were under-enrolled, in need of students in order to make it more cost-effective for these classes to operate.
Be very leery of any “hard sell” where you’re actively steered into a degree program other than the one you called to inquire about. If your dream is to be a nurse, stick with it. If one admissions rep won’t help you, ask for another.
Trick 7) Keep on Studying (And Borrowing Online Student Loans)
Don’t assume you’re immune from pressure after you’ve enrolled. Like all businesses, online universituies are beginning to see that selling a single customer “more product” may be essential to their long-term fiscal success.
Earned your bachelors? How about a masters? Maybe even an online doctorate (Ph.D.).
Indeed, most large, for-profit educational chains now offer every type of degree, beginning with the associate degree, terminating in the doctorate. In theory, this means that a single college can keep “selling” you educational credentials for oh, a decade or two.
The phrase “lifelong learning” has acquired new meaning as for-profit chains work hard to turn adult online students into repeat customers.
Ivan Sanchez, who attended ECPI College of Technology and the University of Phoenix as an undergraduate, feels that UoP tried to use his student debt to pressure him to get his distance masters degree with them, too.
Sanchez reports that reps told him “you won’t have to pay off your loans” and “the more you borrow, the longer you get to pay it back.” “I’ve seen them really bully people to continue their education,” says Sanchez.
As the recession worsens, unemployed workers are turning to online education in record numbers. Most will utilize online student loans in an effort to prep quickly for a new career.
While it is true, in general, that the more you learn the more you will earn, be wise about how much you borrow in the form of student loans—and for how long.
You can’t be a student forever. Someday those loans will come due. And at that time you can pretty much bet that your online college rep will be hard-pressed to remember your name.
Affordable Online Degree Resources
Should You Trust Your Online School Financial Aid and Student Loan Officer?
Should You Get a Student Loan to Attend Online College?
Pensions and Home-Equity Borrowing for Online Education Loan: A Bad Idea?
5 Ways to Earn College Credit for Career and Life Experience
6 Tricks Online Degree Programs Use to Appear More Affordable
Online Degree Completion: 5 Tips for Bachelors Degree
4 Surprise Factors that Determine Cost and Affordability of an Online University
10 Free Online Classes to Help You Get Ahead on the Job
7 Ways You Can Save Thousands by Getting an Online College Degree
4 Ways Your Company Can Offer Tuition Assistance for Online Education
Best Online Education Tax Credits
Best Online Education Tax Deductions
How to find Cheap and Free Textbooks Online
Resources for Online College Education Student Loans & Loan Programs
The Best Online College Grant and Free Money Financial Aid Programs