By Chad Storlie
There were approximately 35,000 students that were affected when ITT Technical Institute closed its doors earlier this month. These students had hopes and dreams of new skills, career advancement, helping their families and improving their lives. These students approached their education with honesty, hard work and hope. What college students and prospective college students need to know is that they can identify poorly performing academic institutions.
Students at all educational institutions need to realize that another ITT Technical Institute could be looming in their future as well. Higher education students from all backgrounds, high school students, returning adult students, and everyone in between need to look at the educational results that schools deliver and not at the marketing material that colleges and universities provide. When we buy a new cell phone, we look at information that describes how much memory the phone has, the speed of the network and how much data is in the wireless service plan. College students need to behave as skeptical, informed consumers and understand how an academic institution performs over time.
Beware the college marketing material
Above all, schools want you to enroll and attend their school. Schools promise great faculty, prestigious buildings, equally distinguished faculty and living spaces that look more like hotel rooms than dormitories. What the marketing material needs to tell you but does not is how many of their students get jobs following graduation, how much student debt will you take out and how many of their graduates do not pay back their student loans.
Truly ask and answer why you are at college
Does what you want to after college revolve around career advancement, improving your income, having the lowest amount of student debt possible or matching your education with a fulfilling sense of purpose? If you are at college to sample courses, enjoy the social scene, try and discover what you are interested in or postpone the pressure of work and career, then nearly any educational institution will meet those needs. There are many reasons students go to college—make sure that you know precisely what your personal reasons are.
All of the recent colleges that have shut their doors or been sanctioned by the federal government for poor educational practices have been accredited by one or more educational accrediting organizations. Students need to look at how a college delivers in terms of graduation rates, low levels of student debt and students that find meaningful employment.
If your current educational institution is unsatisfactory, take a break immediately
The factors that you need to focus on for an educational institution is one that delivers high graduation rates, a high level of income at graduation, a low tuition level and a high percentage of graduates that can pay back their student loans. These are some of the most important criteria and all of them are equally important. If you are attending a school that has a poor educational outcome, then stop immediately and reassess your choice. Attend the educational institution that delivers you the best chance of future success.
Focus on educational outcome criteria above emotion
The following eight educational outcome criteria are available through and reflect the outcome that you want from attending higher education. These criteria are equally important because focusing on a single metric, such as high average income, will only tell a part of the story if graduation rates are low or if tuition levels and student debt levels are also high.
1. Undergraduate enrollment: Higher is better to the larger size of alumni in related career fields.
2. Retention rate of undergraduate students: The percentage level of students who continue their education at the college.
3. Graduation rate of all students: The percentage level of students who graduate at the college.
4. Average salary all students: Salary following graduation.
5. Student loan repayment rate of all students: The percentage level of all students who successfully pay back their college debts.
6. Average student loan debt: The average amount of student loan debt upon graduation.
7. In state tuition levels: The average amount of in-state tuition.
8. Educational complaint count: The number of educational complaints against the school that may signal financial collapse, compliance to accreditation or deceptive financial or recruiting practices.
Success in college is important and picking the right college is vital. The focus for current and prospective college students must be the delivered educational outcomes and not on slick marketing material or materials that make campus living a dream experience but then a nightmare after graduation. Focus on educational outcomes, focus on your post college dreams and you will be successful.
Chad Storlie is the founder of The College Pick, dedicated to help current and prospective college students, their families and employers discover educational institutions that deliver the best educational outcomes in terms of high graduation rates, low student debt levels and high rates of post-graduation employment. Storlie is an adjunct professor of marketing at Creighton University.