As most online students know, the internet is not necessarily a haven for the truth. Online universities have tried many different tactics to lure students into the many different online universities, ranging from “month-long” degree plans to boastful accreditation statuses that do not exist. The Government Accountability Office recently took notice of these deceptive practices and testified this month before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the US Senate, effectively including the legislature in its quest for better-regulations within online universities.
GAO performed this study on online universities because enrollment in many online degree programs has more than quadrupled in just the last several years. Students at most of these for-profit schools received “more than $4 billion in Pell Grants and more than $20 billion in federal loans provided by the Department of Education”. As you can imagine, the federal government is wary of new companies which partake in deceptive practices to sign students up for classes and encourage thousand-dollar debt. GAO was then asked to determine whether for-profit colleges engaged in any deceptive practices as well as compare the tuitions of online schools with colleges in the same region. The results of their study were astounding, although many critics of online education would have pegged certain schools to engage in such practices.
First of all, some for-profit schools advertise their “low prices” when compared to similar programs. Many times, this is an incredible lie, but one which is easy for students to research into. The deceptive practices which the GAO report discusses in detail is one which should keep prospective students on edge. However, as a result of the report, Kaplan University has suspended enrollment at two of its campuses that GAO specifically found deceptive practices within. But students shouldn’t brush aside the potential for online education just yet – the Education Department proposed new rules to be put into play this year that would tighten the regulation on for-profit schools and “reign in programs whose graduates end up with more debt than they can repay”. This will be a turning point for accredited online universities who have received numerous critiques from educators. After people realize that the online campuses are complying with these regulations, online education might be able to regain its title that so many for-profit schools have brought down in recent years.
Thus far, many online schools are taking measures to ensure that their students receive the best education they can through online classes as well as ensure they are not scared off by these reports of deceptive practices.