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For-profit colleges cost more, leave students with greater debt than public institutions

by Silas Allen Published: November 18, 2012

A few years ago, Doris Ford was taking business courses through the University of Phoenix.

After spending about two years with Phoenix, she decided to leave the university and transfer to a community college. Today, she's glad she did.

For-profit colleges such as the University of Phoenix make up a large and growing share of the higher education offerings around the Oklahoma City area. Such institutions have heard criticism in recent years from policymakers and others, who say they leave students like Ford deeply in debt.

But officials with those institutions say they fill an important role, offering flexibility and support to working adults who might not otherwise be able to complete a degree.

Ford, a bus driver, decided to transfer after speaking with several co-workers who had gone through four years of classes at Phoenix. Each was tens of thousands of dollars in debt, she said, and their degrees didn't seem to be doing them much good.

Now a student at Rose State College, Ford said she's glad she transferred when she did. Although she's carrying some student debt from her time at Phoenix, she said, she would have had to take out more loans to finish there.

If she could start her college career over knowing what she knows now, Ford said, she would begin at a community college rather than a for-profit school.

“I wouldn't go near Phoenix,” she said.

Although he acknowledged the relatively high cost of for-profit colleges, University of Phoenix spokesman Ryan Rauzon said the university offers programs geared toward students for whom traditional institutions might not be an option.

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