College Students Warned to Enroll With Caution

July 23, 2013

DENVER – Enrollment in for-profit colleges has sharply increased in recent years and the Better Business Bureau of Denver/Boulder is warning students to be diligent about information regarding hidden costs, job placement promises and credit transfer options. The attraction to these colleges may be due to specialized industry and accelerated degree programs offered.

While these options have gained popularity, some colleges have been scrutinized in recent years for spending much more revenue on marketing and recruiting efforts than what traditional colleges typically spend. Also, a 2010 investigation by the Government Accountability Office found that several colleges have misled students about the cost and quality of the education they will receive.

“College is a significant investment and commitment so students should choose institutions they can trust,” said Su Hawk, president and CEO for the BBB of Denver/Boulder. “Ensure you ask all questions, especially about the transfer of any previous college credits and please avoid any college that shows signs of common red flags.”

Before applying to a college, the BBB recommends students to check out the institution with the BBB at or by calling (303) 758-1200. When applying to a college, the BBB says to beware of the following red flags:

  • The recruiter uses high-pressure sales tactics. A reputable school will take the time to answer your questions, allow you to talk to a financial aid advisor and not push you into making a hasty decision.
  • The recruiter exaggerates potential income or guarantees a job. Beware of any school that guarantees you will get a job after completing their program. Landing a job is never a sure thing, especially in this economy.
  • The prices are inflated when compared to other options. The GAO investigation alleged price gouging at some for-profit schools. As an example, one school charged $14,000 for a certification in massage therapy while a similar certification at a local public college would have cost only $520. Before signing up with any for-profit school, do your research and compare costs against other for-profit schools and public colleges.
  • The school is not accredited. Accreditation is extremely important, but not always easy to confirm. Ask the school’s representative about national and regional accreditation and then confirm with the accrediting organization. You can check with the US Department of Education at for more information.
  • The degree or program seems too easy to obtain. Diploma mills pose as online schools and often promise to give you a cheap and easy degree. Unfortunately, such diplomas aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on and won’t be recognized by the military, employers or other colleges.
  • The school does not disclose information as required. Some of the for-profit schools the GAO investigated “failed to provide clear information about the college's program duration, costs, or graduation rate despite federal regulations requiring them to do so.” Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions when talking to recruiters and if you get the runaround instead of clear, concise answers, it’s a bad sign.
  • The recruiter encourages you to lie on financial aid forms. The GAO report also found that some recruiters encouraged students to lie on their financial aid applications in order to get more money from the government to pay for tuition. If you get caught lying on your financial aid forms, not only will you have to pay the government back the money you borrowed, you could be fined and sent to prison.

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About the BBB

The BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, BBB Business Reviews, BBB Charity Reports and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers dispute resolution services for consumers and businesses. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, there are 113 local, independent BBBs across the U. S. and Canada. Please visit for more information.