Shopping for a college: caveat emptor


Vivian Blevins - Contributing Columnist



I’ve spent most of my adult life in simple and complex roles working in colleges from “the Kentucky coal mines to the California sun.”

This might seem a strange assertion to make to some of my readers, but I’ve always focused on students: increasing their access to colleges and providing excellent learning experiences as they navigate their way to graduation.

Students’ ability to pay for colleges is front and center in current debates about higher education with a particular focus on the crippling debt that so many students owe.

In our capitalistic society, there are unethical persons out there willing to lure students to take out loans to pay expenses at colleges that are not accredited and can close when they are no longer profitable. You might respond with, “But I looked on the web and that college had a list of accreditors.”

Yes, these colleges not regionally accredited get together and come up with powerful-sounding “accrediting” organizations/agencies which they join and tout in their materials. Most readers are most familiar with Trump University, a private, for-profit “university” that paid out $25 million to students who claimed they had been defrauded. There are dozens of others out there and caveat emptor, i.e., “let the buyer beware” seems to be the motto.

How can you be certain that the college you are attending is regionally accredited? Here’s the list and you’ll note it’s by regions, i.e., regionally accredited. These colleges have rigorous written standards and are monitored closely by these agencies.

• Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

• Higher Learning Commission (HLC) formerly North Central

• Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

• New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (MSCHE)

• Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC)

• WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Recently, the Department of Education began notifying students who attended some non-regionally accredited, defunct colleges/universities that only half or less of the federal loans they took out will be forgiven.

How do these “colleges” exist? The non-regionally accredited colleges and universities use the power of their purses with Congress so that the money train with federal student loans does not dry up. And the current education secretary, Betsy Devos, according to AP reporter Maria Danilova, wants “to ease regulations governing for-profit schools” and “critics say the Trump administration has deep ties to for-profit colleges and is putting industry interests ahead of students.”

Devos announced in December, according to Danilova, “that she was also breaking with the Obama administration’s practice of fully wiping out the loans of defrauded for-profit students and would grant some only partial relief.”

I sought advice to share with my readers from Chris Cummings, director of Student Financial Aid at Edison State Community College (Cummings has been working for 17 years in financial aid):

• Pay attention to the required student loan counseling before receiving federal loans;

• Plan ahead. From junior high on, put aside part of birthday and holiday monies for college as well as monies made from part-time employment;

• Search regularly for scholarship and apply. And do a quality job with the applications;

• Only borrow what you really need and with flexible college schedules work while attending college;

• Be aware of debt loan eligibility and monitor what is remaining. The maximum for the bachelor’s degree is $57, 500. And then, there is interest.

• Make unscheduled, unrequired payments on loan debt while still in college.

The bottom line is that college is an excellent investment. Unemployment is 4.1 percent nationally now and employers are seeking those with skills they need to be competitive in a global marketplace.

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Vivian Blevins

Contributing Columnist

Dr. Blevins has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teaches communication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or vbblevins@woh.rr.com.

Dr. Blevins has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teaches communication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or vbblevins@woh.rr.com.