The Pioneer Post

The Pioneer Post is a resource for online students that provides tips and information about distance education.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Part III of "Going back to school: Step by step"

By Les Hollingsworth

Part III: Public vs. for-profit colleges: Pros and cons

As a frequent visitor of LinkedIn, I see a question that comes up several times per month: Which is better: public or private, for-profit? Here are a few things to consider:
  • The key to the whole educational process is finding a provider that meets your needs. In some cases, a state university will work the best; in others a for-profit may be the only way to go.
  • Public University – The private, for-profits still receive a skeptical eye in some employment circles. They’ve also had some pretty negative press over the past few years. You could avoid a potential negative stigma on your resume by selecting a well-known state university. Most public universities also help by making no reference to “online” on your transcript. As an example, at UW-Platteville, your transcript is a University of Wisconsin-Platteville transcript. Your coursework is as rigorous and the requirements for earning a degree are comparable to on-campus programs, so there is no distinction on your transcript. Be sure to ask admissions advisors about this.
  • For-Profit University – It’s almost guaranteed that a for-profit university will give you a better transfer credit evaluation than what you would get at a public school. They often have fewer bureaucratic and academic limitations and design the curriculum to accept more flexibility in transfer credits. But, this also should prompt you to carefully evaluate the quality of the program.
  • Public University – Many public schools’ online courses are taught by the same tenured faculty using the same curriculum as they do in their traditional brick-and-mortar classes. This lends additional credibility to your coursework.
  • For-Profit University – It’s easier to find information about these institutions. These schools are designed to be highly-responsive and they’ve spent the marketing dollars to ensure that you know they exist.
  • Public University – Generally, tuition at a state university will be lower than an equivalent program at a private university. Be sure to compare what type of credit system (semester hour, quarter hour, etc.) the schools use so you can compare apples to apples.

I think that covers the main pros and cons. Use the comments feature to let me know if there are others worth mentioning. Also, If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me at My goal is to be a resource for anyone who seeks to improve themselves through education. Good luck!

Next time: Red flags and warning signs when evaluating online degrees.

About this series

Whether you're a new graduate with a bachelor’s degree, a blue-collar employee looking to strengthen your resume, or a skilled professional looking to climb the corporate ladder, it’s likely that you’ve thought about continuing your education. The odds are also good that you’ve wondered about doing it online. This five-part series will provide a few tips and thoughts over the next two weeks to help you decide.



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