When school shopping, there are many considerations to
consider, not least of which include questions like class size, a safe and engaging environment, and cost. However,
there are other questions that need to be addressed to ensure the long-term
financial health and personal well-being of any prospective student. Consider the following questions before attending any school
and making a decision that can considerably impact your future.
Is the School Accredited?
One of the biggest questions to ask when school shopping is if the
college or university is accredited. Accreditation means that the school upholds education
standards as laid out by a larger governing body of higher education professionals. The United
States Department of Education's website
has an extensive list of recognized accrediting
agencies that is available to the public. Before deciding which school to attend, be sure to consult
this list and your institution(s) of choice accreditation. The point of accreditation is to
ensure that all schools across a country or region, or in a specific discipline or major have the same basic
standards regarding ethics, curriculum, teaching, and professional development.
Going to an unaccredited school can lead to some costly mistakes later. If attending graduate
school is part of your career or life plan, having graduated from a school that is not formally
recognized will not be helpful. Likewise, employers may
experience hesitation when hiring you, due to there being no assurances of your learned knowledge from
the institution of higher learning you chose to attend. So, while attending an unaccredited school may open doors for
certain learning opportunities or may be a cheaper option in the short term, the risks may never
pay off in the long run. Consider if these are risks you are willing to take.
Is the School a For-Profit Institution?
First, it is important to understand the difference
between for-and non-profit organizations. A for-profit institution has
a different financial model than non-profit organizations. At a for-profit company, the revenue generated is distributed
across the higher levels of the administration and given to shareholders and investors. This is in
direct contrast to non-profits, where any profits are reinvested back into the organization (after
things like salaries and expenses are accounted for). While all companies look to earn a profit,
for-profit institutions have a drive to earn more, as they have a vested interest in the success of
the organization. In an education setting, this drive can lead to practices that may be beneficial to
the company, but not the students.
For-profit schools are the bane of college students' existence.
Months before the Biden administration began forgiving student loan debt for all students, the federal government offered
students who had fallen prey to for-profit institutions restitution from their student loans, citing
predatory financial ruin from the schools.
The Importance of School Rankings:
Though a fair amount has been said regarding school
rankings within other
Newsroom articles, they still remain a factor to consider when school
shopping. If the school has poor rankings from a large percentage of its students, that could be a
red flag to look out for. There is no point in spending thousands of dollars in your first semester
only to turn around and drop out in a month due to the school's toxic environment. Likewise,
while the school itself may be
alright in terms of culture and rankings
, another consideration, on
a smaller scale, would be program rankings. If you have your heart set on attaining a certain
degree to enter a particular profession, program rankings, faculty, and major environment can all
be important factors. While school rankings may not be the most important factor in deciding
where you go to school or how much you spend, it should not be disregarded altogether.
What are the School's Graduation Rates and Graduate Outcomes? Most often talked
about regarding much younger learners in say, grade or middle school, a school's graduation rate is
also very important to high schoolers and college students. If the school has a low graduation
rate, that may indicate something about their policies, culture, or
environment, similar to how one must examine a prospective employer's employee turnover rate. Thankfully, however, most
schools that have a high graduation rate often boast about it — they are proud of their students,
and that is a good sign for anyone looking to attend.
Likewise, most schools will also seek to illustrate how successful their students are
after graduation. A good source of information can be from alumni groups, as they lived through the
experiences you are hoping to as well. Additionally, like having high graduation rates, most
colleges will also have statistics on how many students attend graduate school after degree
completion, how many have jobs within their fields, how many have full time jobs, and so forth.
This can also be a good source of information to ensure your long term financial and professional
Does the School Follow the Clery Act Reporting Policy?
Another consideration for attending
any school is more focused on your physical safety, that being does the school report on-campus
crimes, as required by the Clery Act
of 1990? The Clery Act
that all institutions of
higher learning which receive federal financial aid keep and disclose all information about
crimes that have happened on or near their campuses. While you may not need to directly ask the
college for information about the Clery Act, it may also be a good idea to refer to police
precincts' information. Like the points earlier in this article about school rankings, there is no
point in going into a hostile environment, spending countless dollars, only to turn around later in
the year, especially when the environment was transparent all along.
There are so many considerations for choosing the school that is right for you, it is easy to lose
yourself in the moment and cut down on your number of choices. From choosing the right
program of study to considering distance from home and everything in between, it is
vital, however, that you do not lose sight of your long-term success, both in college and beyond, and in
every situation-financially, emotionally, physically, and everything else. Hopefully these other
considerations can help you decide what is best for
your successful future.