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College Talk Blog

You would not let your child drive a lemon, don't let them graduate from one

Buying a college education has a fair amount of similarities to buying a used car.  You'd never buy a used car at first sight.  And you would not make a final buying decision based solely on what a sticker or car report or used car salesman says without doing a little research yourself.  Not even if they offered you "easy payments".
Prior to selecting a college, it is a good idea to take a test drive.  The best way to do that is to attend a college day or tour program at colleges you are considering.  Ask questions, taste the food and look at a dorm room.  Evaluate whether the staff was forthcoming and friendly, whether the facilities would meet your needs, the qualifications of the faculty and whether what is being taught is keeping pace with the most modern technology and what is happening in professions.
You can also kick the tires of a prospective college. You do that by doing a little homework.  For example, what is the graduation rate for this college? How about the job placement rate?  What is the student loan successful repayment rate for this college?  Who accredits the college?  Do classes transfer easily to mainstream colleges and universities?  There are government websites that provide much of this information.
Buyers check out used cars to avoid buying a lemon.  A lemon is a car that does not hold up.  A car that won't do what it is supposed to do.  Unfortunately, you cannot trust that an institution that calls itself a college or university will live up to the standards you are seeking. 
Because there are different accrediting agencies, literature about a college or university can indicate that it is accredited without it meeting the minimum standards for curriculum, facilites, faculty qualifications, transferability of courses or ability to participate in state/federal financial aid and private scholarship programs that you'd expect. 
I read an article recently that included a quote from a college representative who proudly proclaimed that they changed the name of their institution to include the word "university" to give them more credibility.  Fascinating.  No other reason.  Just to have credibility.  Usually a college changes to a university because of upgrades in size, programs and other qualitative and quantitative measures.  
Be careful of promises that appear too good to be true.  They may be.  But then again, do they use the words "real world" alot?  Does that mean our faculty has work experience but we don't worry about them having degrees?  And are they charging ALOT for their courses that may not transfer?
College buyer beware that the words "college" or "university" no longer necessarily mean what they used to mean.  As a good higher education consumer, compare prices, quality and performance whether you are shopping for a car or a college.  Because just as there are lemons on the used car lot mixed in with great cars, there are lemons mixed in among the best colleges and universities. 

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