I got my degree from a for-profit school that was shut down, and it’s hurting my job search

A reader writes:

Six years ago, I obtained a degree from a national for-profit “school” that was finally shut down last year due to their shady practices. I was already having a really hard time finding employment that was actually in my field and paid me what I felt I was worth after working so hard to finish my BS. It took me a long time to accept that my “degree” hasn’t been helping me. It was really depressing, because I worked really hard to obtain this degree (and I have nearly $100k in debt to prove it — I’m saddled with it because I’d already graduated before the school shut down) and I was really proud of myself and thought I was going to change my life, but I’ve only been able to get entry-level jobs that don’t really require a degree at all.

A little over a year ago, I did get a job that I thought I could turn into a career, but I’m finding that the direction I would have to go in this field (it isn’t doing anything that I went to school for, but it’s loosely related) isn’t lining up with what I ultimately wanted to do. Not to mention, to really go any higher from my current role/with my current employer, I would have to go back to school and obtain a degree that has some actual value and I can’t afford that. I’ve only made a few dollars more than my state’s minimum wage since I graduated, and each of the jobs I’ve had haven’t had room for growth for me for the same reason. I am in a hole and I am sinking.

My biggest dilemma now is that if I do figure out a new direction to go, I think I need to change my resume to exclude the school I went to, because I think it carries a real negative connotation with a lot of employers. The problem is, I want to show that I had the tenacity to finish a bachelors degree and that I do have higher education. Also, most jobs require a degree. Since I can’t move up in my current role due to my lack of education, and I simply cannot afford to go back to school due to the amount of debt I already have, I can’t figure out how to make my resume look appealing to future employers. I feel like I am going to be stuck at this level forever.

I don’t plan to begin looking for something new for a while, but I really don’t know what to do when I do. My resume never shows much in terms of increased responsibility or title in any of my positions and although I am very dependable, have great reviews, and try to give every day 100%, there just isn’t room for me to move. If I take the school off, it will look like I’m just a high school graduate who’s never done much with herself. My outlook is bleak. I need to figure out something but I don’t know where to start.

Ugh, I’m sorry. You got swindled.

I do think you should take the school off your resume. Even before it was shut down, I probably would have given you the same advice. For-profit schools just look bad on resumes.

I know that you want to show that you finished a degree and have higher education, and that you achieved something with your schooling. The problem is that degrees from those schools don’t do that. In many (if not most) cases, they actually do more harm than good, because to an awful lot of people, they signal “this person doesn’t have a high bar for academics and doesn’t realize that this isn’t equivalent to a degree from a proper school,” and they raise questions about the candidate’s intellectual rigor, whether or not that’s justified.

Right now, you’re thinking that having the degree on there is better than nothing. But I think it’s actually harming you, and having no degree there would be better. I’m sorry — I know that has to be awful to hear after putting in that time and that money and being saddled with that kind of debt. The people who sold you that degree (at a cost so much higher than you would have paid at many public universities) were charlatans, and they are horrible people.

So, where does that leave you now? One possibility is to look for junior-level work at a company with a track record of promoting from within, where you’ll have the chance to move up after proving yourself in a lower-level job. You should also focus on excelling as much as you can at the job you’re currently in, because if you rack up a stable job history with a track record of excelling, that’s going to make it easier and easier to get hired at more appealing jobs in the future.

At some point, you may end up in a position where you can afford a degree from a reputable nonprofit school (and in fact, you might particularly look at jobs that offer tuition reimbursement to make that easier). But in the meantime, focus on demonstrating all the things that a degree is a proxy for — smarts, focus, and ability to achieve. Having a degree is one way to demonstrate promise in those areas, but it’s not the only way. Focus on doing it in your actual work (which is a better predictor of success in the next job anyway).

I don’t mean to imply that the lack of a degree won’t be an obstacle in some fields. It will give you some limitations, yes, but those are limitations that a ton of successful people have navigated. If you’re determined to excel, this doesn’t have to be a kiss of death for your career.

{ 381 comments… read them below }

  1. WellRed*

    Are there any debt relief programs for students that went to these schools, does anyone know? Doesn’t help directly with the job issues but…

    1. AnonEMoose*

      It would be worth checking into, at least. Maybe try searching something like “student loan forgiveness” or “student loan debt relief”? But I remember hearing at least a brief mention about it on the news.

    2. fposte*

      There are, and it’s got info about credit transfer as well. I’ll post a link from the DOE in followup.

    3. Alice*

      In some cases, usually if the school misled students about the terms of the loans. For example, people who went to Corinthian Colleges might be able to get loan forgiveness for federal loans. I’ll post a link below.

    4. MsCHX*

      Right on the Federal Student Aid page is information on discharge for schools that closed.

      I can’t believe no one has ever shared this with her!

      1. Natalie*

        That discharge is only available if you are a current student or withdraw a short time before the school closes. That is what the OP was referencing when they said “I’m saddled with it because I’d already graduated before the school shut down”

        1. consumer advocate*

          Depending on the school, however, there may still be recourse.

          For example, DeVry recently settled basically a false advertising case with the FTC over the claims it made in its ads, and is on the hook for $100 million in debt and loan relief not only for students who were attending at the time, but also for anyone who attended since 2008.


          So depending on which of the several recently-folded, high-profile, for-profit schools the OP attended, not only might there be Dept. of Ed. debt relief programs, but also settlements like that. I hope one applies.

          1. Bad Candidate*

            Darn it, it looks like this is just for private loans. I took a few classes there before transferring out for various reasons.

          2. fposte*

            I think some of the private loans have settlement options, too. A good point that there’s more than just this main program!

    5. applecake*

      On the education front – is it possible to salvage some of your education? By way of an accredited college that allows for “credit-by-exam” and “prior learning assessment” or “portfolio assessment” – so perhaps you can gain credit for the education you have already completed? (for example Thomas Edison State College is accredited and has articulation agreements with other schools.)

    6. Kriss*

      yes, there are. the LW should be able to get all debt to that school dismissed. brb, looking for the links now

    7. WellRed*

      There are absolutely things that the writer can do do have those student loans discharged and even fully refunded.

      The Department of Education has a very easy form that you can fill out here: https://borrowerdischarge.ed.gov/FormWizard/BDU/BDULanding.aspx

      If your school closed, you can apply for a full discharge and refund of your student loans from the Department of Education: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/closed-school-loan-discharge-form.pdf.

      Also, if you went to ITT Tech, there is a bankruptcy that you should file for before January 30th, 2017. The form is here – it’s easy, just a few questions: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeVWIZulQ3t12YkzzJG5h0pDDlkilLalCrvk5kDXUZ01j1jpQ/viewform?c=0&w=1.

      Please don’t let this fraudulent degree slow down your progress in life.

      1. Natalie*

        LW does not qualify for a closed school discharge because they finished their degree more than 4 months before the school closed.

        1. Clinical Social Worker*

          From an article posted in the comments:
          “If you completed your degree but your school was closed due to fraudulent practices, or you believe that the school was guilty of committing fraudulent practices, then you could be eligible for loan forgiveness based on borrower defense.
          To apply for this allowance, you’ll need to complete an attestation form describing your claim. While your claim is being processed, your loans will be placed in forbearance, which means that won’t need to make regular payments though interest will continue to accrue.
          Ultimately, if your borrower defense claim is upheld, then your federal loans will be forgiven. However, you could still need to pay interest that accrued during the forbearance period. If your claim is denied, then you will be required to repay your loans, plus the interest that accumulated while the claim was being processed.
          You can learn more about your options by calling the Department of Education’s borrower defense hotline at 855-279-6207. It’s open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time.”

    8. seejay*

      I hate suggesting it, but one of my friends wound up declaring bankruptcy after nearly 10 years of payments on her student loans. It was literally the last step she wanted to take, but after religiously consistently paying them monthly and barely denting them, having the banks and loan companies still riding her ass up and down about them, and the interest still piling up and no one willing to work with her on consolidating and making them easier to manage, she finally just pulled the plug on the whole thing to get rid of them. Maybe not the perfect solution, but it wound up being the corner she found herself backed into. This isn’t someone who wasn’t trying either, she worked full time, paid everything, lived within her means and wasn’t living extravagantly. She struggled with the decision to declare the bankruptcy too since she felt that wasn’t the *right* way to handle it, she wanted to pay what she felt she owed, but in 10 years, she calculated that she had paid back more than what she’d borrowed by that time and there was no reasonable way out of the debt anymore.

      Maybe that’s a feasible path when it comes down to it? :(

      1. Natalie*

        There’s most likely more to that story – student loans are almost never dischargeable in bankruptcy. There’s a much longer discussion of this down thread.

      2. Lia*

        Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Now, if you had a private loan (NOT a private student loan), you might be able to discharge it, but there’s two ways to discharge student loan debt: die, or pay it off.

      3. seejay*

        And I see that others have suggested it elsewhere and that there’s a lot of hurdles with it (I started my comment earlier and then had to run off for something, finished it, and didn’t read other comments, derp).

        I genuinely don’t know what hoops my friend had to go through to get her bankruptcy to go through, but I know she managed it (she had cosigned on a loan for me prior to this since I didn’t have a high credit rating due to being an immigrant with no credit history yet, I got a lot of phone calls from debt collectors as a result, looking for her, despite the fact that her cosigning for me had nothing to do with my line of credit and only served to cheese me off). She was a legal secretary at the time and her boss helped her with the paperwork and negotiating the system to get it through though, so that might have helped her with the process. She also might have been able to cite untreated mental health issues problems for when she got the loans initially. I do know that she had it granted and she’s been debt free from them for the past 3 years though, so it was one of the best decisions she made. She’s been rebuilding her credit rating since, and while it’s annoying, because she had good credit habits to begin with, it was more of just a hiccup than a total hardship.

        I hope the LW can find a solution though. :(

  2. TotesMaGoats*

    From a higher ed perspective: You might consider looking into getting a 2nd BS degree. Generally what happens is you are able to transfer your “general curriculum” into the new degree and only have to take the core program coursework, around 30 credits or so. Plus electives. You’ll want to look at your local colleges that are working with students who’ve been hurt by the for-credit closures.

    Also, consider schools that offer graduate certificates that are stack-able to a master’s degree. That way you aren’t doing a full master’s program all at once but can get resume worthy education. Plus some of those certificates can help you break into a new or related field.

    1. paul*

      A lot of schools won’t take credits from the for profits for transferring purposes…but IIRC having any degree, even a crappy one like that, also rules out most federal aide. But it’s been a while since I had to look at that.

      1. Edith*

        And with the exception of an associate degree being applied to a bachelor’s degree, most schools will only accept transfer credits that haven’t been applied to another degree.

        1. TotesMaGoats*

          That’s not always true. I’ve worked at two places that offered the 2nd BS option and would take credits from the first bachelor’s degree and apply it to the second.

          1. Nikki T*

            Yeah, the general curriculum courses can work that way. I see a more hard line drawn at the graduate level for courses from completed degrees not transferring to other ones…

        2. Cam*

          This was not my experience getting a second bachelor’s degree. I literally only had to take an extra 30 credits (one year). Some schools may not do this, but it’s worth checking, at least.

        3. Whats In A Name*

          That actually isn’t true as a blanket statement. It depends on where the credit was earned (was the school regionally accredited or not), is there an equivalent course offered that it can transfer in as (or can it be an elective) and what grade did the person receiver? (P/F, D, F generally don’t transfer).

      2. TotesMaGoats*

        Actually, many schools are using the failure of for-profit schools as a recruitment opportunity and finding ways to take in those credits. I’m seeing it happen in my field by several state institutions.

        1. fposte*

          Yup. And a quick Google showed me that WGU is actively inviting ITT students and offering them assistance.

          I’m not clear whether any are doing it to those who completed the degree, but schools that are explicitly reaching out are the ones to ask first.

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            WGU might be a good option in any case, since their classes are competency-based and the credit might transfer more easily to them.

        2. dragocucina*

          Yes, our local public university is doing just that for ITT grads and students. They are taking the gen ed credits and one or two of the tech courses where knowledge can be verified.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Our local junior college is doing this as well for former ITT students so they can complete an associates.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yeah—many schools are changing their policies for folks who were swindled, and at least for now, DOE has also modified their policies for these folks (including discharging prior fed loans). It’s a valuable suggestion worth researching.

    2. MissGirl*

      My respected state university does take degrees from Phoenix. A few people in the night business programs are getting their masters to wipe out their for profit degrees. Our masters in accounting is only a one-year night program and has 98 percent placement. Salaries are averaging 50 thousand.

      My roommate was able to transfer some of her credits from a defunct school to another state school and finish her bachelors. You have choices. This isn’t your future.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        Yes for your roomie! That is awesome news.

        Many school accept credits from for-profit schools that have received Regional Accreditation, even if they have recently lost it. You are definitely correct in thinking this doesn’t have to be OPs future.

    3. Lowercase holly*

      Don’t some programs (online or continuing) offer exams in place of some classes in order to show the person is proficient?

      1. librarygirl*

        Most schools do that. Its called Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition(PLAR). The tests aren’t always easy but it is a way to get credit for the coursework and/or related work experience you’ve had.

        OP I’d look around at other schools near you and see what will transfer and ask about PLAR possibilities too. You may be able to get a “better” degree faster and cheaper than you think.
        Also look into Master’s programs and scholarships for older or returning students.

      2. Atrocious Pink*

        Absolutely. Excelsior College (private nonprofit based in Albany, NY) has a liberal credit acceptance policy and has encouraged former ITT Tech students to get in touch. They accept all applicable credits from CLEP, DSST/DANTES, and their own proprietary program, Excelsior College Examinations. There is no reason to do an entire degree over again, even if not all of OP’s credits will transfer.

    4. Kat*

      And look into employment at one of your local colleges. Often times they’re more dedicated to a diverse workforce (including educational background) than the private sector, and especially if it’s a state college, provide tuition reimbursement.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        I work at a university and many of our staff are doing this. My institution will accept some credits from for-profit schools (dependent on the program). Many staff I know are getting a second bachelor’s degree or working on a graduate program or certificate.

        I would actually suggest to OP to leave the for-profit institution on her resume if she is applying to institutions of higher education. It’s almost impossible to get hired at my university if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree from SOMEWHERE, unless you’re applying to jobs that require manual labor.

      2. The Strand*

        I hate, hate, hate to say this, but some schools are a little prejudiced against for-profit schools… I am not saying don’t follow the above advice, I would, but please don’t be mad if it only takes you so far.

        I worked at an institute of higher learning that told one of my colleagues her for-profit degree was not considered qualifying for a position she wanted to have. Another colleague was in the same boat, and used tuition assistance to go back to school and get an associates’ degree. He’s edging towards his bachelor’s the last I talked to him.

        1. TCO*

          I work at a public university and I think that a for-profit degree wouldn’t be viewed well here, either–BUT it might be okay if OP applies for jobs at the university that don’t require a degree at all. Those are likely to be pretty menial, but it’s possible that the right tuition benefit package (and the general benefits package) could make it worthwhile for a year or two.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, that’s what I was thinking. We don’t require bachelor’s degrees for every position. (Though I don’t know a year or two would be enough if your real goal is to use tuition to get a bachelor’s.)

      3. Elizabeth H.*

        I work at a university and a) tons of opportunity to promote from within b) after 6 months of being a full time employee, you can take courses for free and earn a degree that way c) good opportunity to start as a temp and go to full time. I think this is a worthwhile option.

      4. Michael in Boston*

        This is a great suggestion. Most places let you take courses towards a BA/BS within 6-12 months of your date of hire, often fully-paid upfront or with reimbursement after if you receive a good grade. Perhaps even a Master’s as well, if the school accepts your original BA as valid.

        It can be hard to get a position, though, so I would check something like higheredjobs.com on a daily/weekly basis. Depending on the size of the campus, its hours, and your availability, you could get a job on a night/evening shift and take courses during the day.

        I think something else that might help you, whether you keep or discard the reference to your degree on your resume, is being able to explain why you chose the school in the first place and what you got out of it despite its shut down now. If there was anything about the program or the financing of it that made college possible maybe that can help people to see that you did the best you could, not that you are not an intelligent person.

  3. Corr*

    This is such a sticky situation but the only time I can see it helping is if having a degree is a technicality for an internal promotion (where you’ve proven your skills) rather than as a fresh hire.

    I would contact reputable schools now and see if they can help – they may be able to give you advanced placement in a part time program despite where you got your degree. It doesn’t hurt to ask and at least if you’re just taking a class here and there you can honestly put that you are working towards a degree, which is better than listing none at all.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      This is exactly what I was coming here to suggest. In larger companies (and also government sector), a BA/BS will be set as a “minimum qualification” for appointment, and your degree will technically count for those purposes. Off the street, I might give a side-eye at your for-profit degree, but if you are a known entity and I know you’re an awesome, motivated worker? I’ll say, “Yup, she meets the qualifications, I want her!”

      I would take Alison’s advice and look to climb the ladder at a larger company. This is really your best bet. Also, many of these places may offer tuition reimbursement if you want to get a graduate certificate, etc.

      1. Anon for this 2*

        I was also going to recommend public sector jobs. A lot of government agencies have processes in place to encourage diversity/fair hiring, and that includes not having a knee-jerk requirement that everyone have a bachelor’s degree if the job doesn’t really require it (often the degree will count as “years of experience in the field” or something like that, so it helps but isn’t required). Super-structured government hiring processes are irritating and definitely have their flaws, but they often do a good job of ensuring that your qualifications to actually do the work are at the center, and other things like how people feel about the reputation of your school are given less weight. A call to an agency’s HR will be able to tell you whether there are policies about how for-profit schools are treated in their hiring process, and everyone (should) stick to that.

        My agency has an awful lot of people who’ve risen through the ranks, and it offers tuition reimbursement if you want to go back to school.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Yup, typically 1 year of education = 1 year of experience. (With a Master’s, regardless of length, counting as an additional 1 year … not sure why that is, probably because of accelerated professional programs.) It’s also not uncommon AT ALL to have people with degrees elect underemployment in government jobs to get the benefits/stability, and those people move up FAST. There’s a lot of options for different types of work in government, and typically a lot of flexibility in changing agencies/focus once you are “in the system”, so to speak. Good luck!

          1. De Minimis*

            Hopefully the hiring freeze will be lifted later this spring. The OP would at least qualify for grade 5 positions, I think, and possibly grade 7 depending on how their degree would be viewed. I’m not for certain on how degrees from for-profits are viewed in the government system, though I’d heard the schools have to be accredited by the US Dept of Ed.

              1. krysb*

                I read last night an article from one of the NPR programs that there’s about to be a federal hiring freeze by executive order. So there’s that.

        2. feminazgul*

          Lots of places have this policy, but people ignore it and it’s almost impossible to prove that that’s why they turned you down. I’ve been trying to move up for literally a decade in my government job and nobody will accept those 10 years as even a bachelors’ degree internally. Thankfully I’m closer to finishing my degree but it’s fucking upsetting that people ignore it.

  4. Punkin*

    OP, I am so sorry. If there is a university in your area, you may want to consider working there (maybe a clerk or such?). One of the best benefits in working in higher ed is no/low cost education for employee and dependents. At my institution, I can take 2 classes per term for free – I just need to get the books (borrow or cheap online).

    My boss got her masters’ this way. Seems like a hard way to do it, but at least it is making progress. Plus, once you get your foot in the door, you can transfer/move up as opportunities become available.

    There is a way past your situation – it will just take some time.

    1. Aphrodite*

      This is what I was going to suggest as well. There are lots of fields in higher ed and maybe your desired career path can find a way to use working there.

  5. an anon is an anon*

    You could consider going to a continuing ed program from a reputable school. Schools like Harvard or NYU or University of Whatever State usually have Bachelors or Masters programs in their continuing ed schools. The tuition is cheaper than the regular program and they have classes you can schedule around your work day.

    They’re legitimate degrees since they’re from legitimate, accredited schools instead of for-profits, and a lot of them have online classes in addition to on-campus classes. Some of them have a residency requirement, though (I know for the Harvard Extension School, being accepted into the program means you have to spend at least one semester taking classes on campus instead of online). Just keep in mind that your degree won’t say Harvard or NYU, but School Extension/Continuing Ed, but they’re a good way for someone to get a degree if they’re a non-traditional student.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Even if you aren’t able to meet residency requirements or pay for courses, there are some AMAZING options for free online courses from incredibly reputable universities. You don’t get a degree from them, but you could put individual, relevant courses or a full course of study (depending on the university) on your resume as “areas of study” if you complete them. No Excuse List (http://noexcuselist.com/) has a section with links to several of these, like MIT Open Courseware, Stanford courses, Open Yale courses, but you can find even more online.

      Another option is to take courses in your subject from places like Coursera and The Khan Academy. More than just watching lecture videos, you can audit a class or choose to take a course as a regular student w/homework and grading by a professor and pay a (relatively) small amount like $50 for a certificate if you complete it. These can actually go in the Education section of your resume since the certificate shows you’ve actually completed coursework.

      I’m sure it varies from industry to industry, but in IT courses like this are actually given weight. Not toward a degree requirement, but toward job skill requirements. They also look great since it shows you’ve spent time really studying specific and focused areas of your work rather than a general degree that doesn’t necessarily apply toward a job. They’ll help more for internal job applications, but they still are useful for external positions.

      1. OG Green*

        The open courses are not given weight towards anything in most fields. If OP were looking for some way to increase her general knowledge, they are fantastic. (I take them from time to time on Coursera or Stanford.) But I wouldn’t recommend that OP do that here: they’re really time intensive and I really don’t think they generally belong on a resume.

      2. The Strand*

        I have to agree with OG Green. These are great ways to get more experience, but even the paid credentials from say, Coursera, are not equivalent.

        An inexpensive community college class would be valued more, outside of the IT industry. Regional accreditation is the key; someday a paid Coursera or edX credit will count towards a degree, but that’s aways from now.

      3. Troutwaxer*

        If you’re in IT, you might consider getting some of the more reputable certification, like a CCNA from Cisco, then taking a higher-level certification like a CCNP. Or do a Red Hat Linux certification. I’ll note that this is something you need to be a little careful of, because some certifications are in demand/important/taken seriously and others aren’t, so do some careful research. Generally you want to certify in an in-demand technology and then go up to a higher ranking cert than the lowest levels.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          Also, if you’re in something related to your preferred career, stay there for a couple years and develop some skills. Experience and skills do transfer.

        2. Zombeyonce*

          I’m not sure if the “you’re” was referring to me or OP, but if me, the certifications you mentioned are not at all my flavor of IT (web development/testing, content strategy, etc.). I and coworkers at my current job have found lots of value in online courses over certifications, mainly because our fields don’t have really well-thought of certs available and it’s more having the skill than being certified. Also, certs can be incredibly expensive to get, so Coursera-type courses are great for starting to gain more varied/focused skills and find out if you’re even interested or find a certain topic enjoyable before sinking in the huge amounts of time and money for certifications.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            Sorry, I meant the OP. And obviously the cost of some certs is prohibitive, but others are reasonably priced and get someone into the profession, albeit at a low entry-level kind of place. I think the big issue for the O.P. is to get some kind of experience and to be in a working environment where its possible to get a promotion by doing decent work.

  6. animaniactoo*

    OP, if you can remotely afford it, you could look into getting an associates degree from your local community college. The classes are usually far cheaper than at 4-year institutions and you can knock out a bunch of the general ed requirements for a Bachelor’s, etc.

    Another thing you might think about doing is seeing if you can transfer some of those credits and take proficiency exams and count life experience to be “granted” course credit towards a degree somewhere more reputable. So that you might end up only needing one year of courses to “complete” your Bachelor’s, but now have it issued from a more reputable school.

    Check into the details of your student loans – some of them defer again if you’re back in school, and if yours does that would also help you on the financial end while you work on creating something better for you from all of this.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Community colleges usually support CLEP exams. You take an exam and if you pass, you get the college credits. It was a long time ago, but I got 12 credits for around $600 and all I had to do was take the exams to prove I knew the material. I’ve transferred those credits to a few institutions and there was no problem with them being accepted.

      1. Adam V*

        I was going to suggest this. If the classes were any good (even if the college itself wasn’t), OP may be able to skip through several of the classes she’s already taken and have a lot less to redo.

      2. krysb*

        DSST exams, too, which are more upper-level classes and cost the same as CLEP. They were originally used only for military members, but are now open to the general public.

      3. The Strand*

        And this is a great thing to consider using with the opencourseware, Khan Academy videos, and other free elearning Zombeyonce mentioned above. If you need a refresher, use these as free revision tools before you take the exam.

        1. krysb*

          Yes, but most of these (some specific edX and Coursera courses are exceptions) don’t count towards credits, though. They’re free and will have some weight on a resume, but not much.

    2. LawCat*

      Seconding local community college. In my community, it’s waaaaay cheaper than 4-year schools, is respected, and offers certificate programs.

      I’d stick with the current job to build a track record of reliability and excellence in the workplace, and work on obtaining local community college credits (where I am, there are many evening and mostly-online options through the community college, I hope that is the case for OP). This could poise you to transition to another employer in the future where promotion from within is a greater possibility.

      1. Epsilon Delta*

        Ohh yes, I am such a big supporter of community colleges and tech colleges. I got my associate’s degree (2 years of courses) for the same cost as one year of my BA, and that associate’s degree got me a great job in my field (tech/software). They are often good at accommodating people who are going back to school while still working full time. Associates degrees aren’t always seen as “as rigorous” as a Bachelor’s degree, but they are a foot in the door, and for some careers they’re all you need (or all you need to get started).

        I would encourage OP to look into two-year colleges in her area and see if she can find an associates degree that is related to or builds on what she did for her bachelor’s. Then she can at least check off the education requirement for a lot of jobs so she doesn’t get automatically screened out by the application software.

      2. Whats In A Name*

        And in addition to cost savings the courses are often taught by the adjunct who teach full-time at local 4-year schools and at times use the same books. It’s definitely worth the look.

    3. Cassandra*

      I was coming to suggest similar. Several state universities have “life experience” or “experiential education” degrees that might fit you.

      And triple yes to community college!

    4. AKJ*

      Yes, this – plus, there may be grants available to help with tuition, depending on your income. A family member of mine in his 40s returned to school at our local community college, and because his income was low and he was an “independent student,” he received a grant (not a loan) that covered a good chunk of his tuition. He’d applied for financial aid thinking he would take out a small federal loan to cover what he couldn’t pay outright, but as it turned out, he got a grant and didn’t have to take out a loan at all.

      1. AKJ*

        Also (I wish I could edit to add this) local community colleges can often have genuinely respected programs, depending on what they specialize in. I have a BA from a state university and a certificate from a nearby community college – the academic program offered at this community college in what my certificate is in is one of the most respected in the state and specially accredited by a national association in my field. Many of the for-profit colleges have a similar program, but without either the reputation or the accreditation (and for $$$ more!) The woman who interviewed me for my present job said one of the reasons she called me for an interview was because she saw the school’s name on my resume.
        In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a big believer in community colleges after my experience! Some are better than others but there are some great programs out there. They’re not always easy to find, but they are out there.

    5. Natalie*

      Yes, I came here to suggest this. OP, be careful that your for-profit experience doesn’t skew your idea of how much school costs. That happened to my husband, and he put off school for years because he assumed he couldn’t afford it. Come to find out our good local CC system is literally 25% of the cost of the school he used to go to. And his old school is only medium expensive compared to others!

      1. Been There - Done That*

        I would also like to offer my sympathies to OP on this situation, and echo those who are recommending Community Colleges as an option. In addition to all the other good things mentioned, many adjunct faculty at CC are working professionals in their fields, who may provide valuable job information and contacts.

      2. Oryx*

        As someone who used to work at a for-profit college, yes. We had programs that our local CC had but we charged a ridiculous amount for in comparison.

      3. Ama*

        Someone mentioned WGU above, so I’m just going to add on that my boyfriend got his BS from there and it was extremely affordable.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Absolutely this. In California, community colleges are our engines of upward mobility, and transfer students (i.e., folks who get their associate’s degree and transfer to complete their BA/BS) from public community colleges receive priority and a guaranteed transfer to CSU/UC if they meet minimum GPA requirements. It’s way more affordable, and om average, transfer students do better at university than students who entered as freshmen (that’s a verifiable statistic, not just my opinion).

      1. Karen D*

        Yep. In Florida, what used to be called “community colleges” are now called “state colleges” and most offer a limited selection of bachelor’s degrees (at an incredible bargain price) as well as the traditional associates.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes! I switched careers a few years post-graduation, and I did an associate’s degree in technology to get me up to speed with the basics of the industry. The AAS program was 60 credits (2 years), but I got the 30 credits of general education waived with a transcript review of my undergraduate work. I only ended up having to do the major-specific classes.

      And the tuition was very, very inexpensive (even compared to my public university tuition) AND in my state, there are guaranteed acceptance/guaranteed transfer credit arrangements with both state and private universities for those who intend to go on to a BA/BS. Community college also had much better online and evening options. I was working full-time (and then some) and was able to complete my AAS degree in about 12-18 months.

  7. jamlady*

    This is so unfortunate and I’m so sorry this happened to you OP. I’ve made it a point to not let school choices impact my hiring practices – I know a few people with similar degrees who are excellent at what they do. The main issue with it in my Specialty is that I legally can’t hire people with those degrees – but when I hire outside of that area, I can breathe a sigh of relief and not worry about it.
    I hate the prejudice with these schools, but I also understand some people have their hands tied.

    Is there any sort of cert program related to your field that you can start with? Since you make barely over minimum wage, there’s a chance you’d qualify for financial aid for school. And I have no idea if this works, but maybe there are schools out there that would allow some of your BS units to transfer.

    Good luck!

      1. Abby*

        Sometimes it is because the school isn’t actually accredited to award that degree. Without the accreditation, the degree/certification is meaningless. This can especially be true in healthcare.

    1. Temperance*

      Booth used to do hiring, and he had to pass on anyone with a for-profit degree. His company “sold” their services by providing resumes to show experience/education, and clients didn’t like it.

    2. Mike C.*

      It’s not unfounded prejudice – there can be significant differences between the quality of education and rigor of various institutions.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          But it’s worth pointing out – not all for-profit schools are the same. It’s important, with any school or degree program, to make sure you understand what accreditation is expected and that the school/program has it. The accreditation information is usually available right on the school’s website, or at least, it should be.

          1. Mike C.*

            Right, that’s the whole point – not all schools are the same. Even more important than accreditation are the quality and rigor of the programs. Too many folks out there assume that an undergrad degree is the same regardless of where you got it from and that really isn’t the case.

            1. AKJ*

              This is true, but it’s also worth remembering that sometimes the most respected programs can be found in the unlikeliest of places, and often that reputation is only known within the field. For example, anyone not in my field is probably not going to be too impressed with the community college certificate on my resume – the school’s overall reputation is decent but not exceptional. However, people in my field will know that this specific program has a really good reputation. This isn’t really general knowledge, but it is known among people who do hiring in my particular area. So it’s worth it to do your research and not make assumptions beforehand.

              1. Dankar*

                I agree 100%. A tiny, moderately-known community college in my previous area had one of the U.S.’s best culinary and pastry programs.

                And the best, most competitive creative writing program in the country is at the University of Iowa. It really is critical to know the big names in your field, as far as education is concerned.

      1. Pommette*

        There are, but the differences don’t follow neat delineations. There are plenty of terrible public university programs that grant degrees to students who have worked little and learned less. I’m sure that there are decent for-public programs, and that many of the people who graduated from such programs learned a lot.

      2. Buffy*

        I agree with you. I’d imagine the commentators here are more speaking on the prejudice on the person themselves. (That falling for the for-profit scam means they are a subpar employee/student, etc.)

    3. De Minimis*

      We don’t have a specific rule about for-profits, but we are right next to one of the top public schools in the country, and there are a lot of other great schools in our state/region, so applicants who went to these other schools are just not going to seem as competitive.

    4. Natalie*

      Hate to be a downer on the financial aid part, but in general you don’t qualify if you already have a degree, no matter little you make. And at least right now, they don’t seem to care if that degree is from a closed school.

      1. Rena*

        I’m a post-bac (2nd bachelor’s) student. I can’t get my state’s grants or many big scholarships, those are saved for first time undergrads, but I could get tuition fully funded through federal loans. And I was lucky enough to get a scholarship through my department that completely covered my tuition for senior year.

  8. yup*

    OP, I’m sorry – this is so frustrating.

    Was the school nationally accredited or regionally accredited? If the school is regionally accredited, you may have some options to pursue a valid Master’s degree. It should only be a couple of years (or maybe even 1) and depending on the school. there may be some good funding, like assistantships.

    1. fposte*

      It was ACICS, which is national, but I don’t think it would matter either way–once a degree is radioactive, it’s going to be a tough sell for a master’s program.

      1. yup*

        I used to work for a higher ed consulting company, so had exposure to multiple schools (they were all legitimate ones), but were expanding into the online realm. Even the nonprofit ones are run like a business, sadly and we saw many University of Phoenix students get accepted into graduate programs. If you can check off the admissions boxes, you should be good to go, even if the school was a for-profit. Many of them do require the school to be regionally accredited though, which is a tough selling point on your end.

        1. yup*

          The other key thing that I learned, is that YOU CAN PETITION ANYTHING. So even if you don’t meet that requirement, there are usually ways around it. I’m a rule follower and cringed at some of these scenarios, but just know that option is out there.

          1. Audiophile*

            Petition for graduate admission? If the school isn’t regionally accredited, which many aren’t, how would you petition for a grad school to ignore that?

            1. yup*

              The same way that you would petition any other requirement. That is exactly he purpose of the petition, to say I don’t meet x requirement, but ____________, so I hope you can overlook that and grant my admission.

              I’m sorry, I don’t think I understand your question?

              1. Anon for this*

                Please let’s not get people’s hopes up about this. I’m not quite sure where your experience is (education consulting?) but petitioning for an exception to a school’s blanket admissions policy (and doing it successfully) is really, really rare.

                1. fposte*

                  And mostly it’s something like being .02 below the GPA cutoff, or my TOEFL score is a hair too low. “My whole undergraduate degree is deemed valueless ” isn’t really petitionable.

        2. fposte*

          I work in a grad program at a state school that’s been teaching online for decades. (And I can assure you, every program is subject to business considerations, whether brick and mortar or online.) The issue isn’t online.

          But even UofP is different from schools that were outright shut down–that’s what I mean by radioactive. The problem is that the master’s programs most willing to take people with that degree are the ones closest to diploma mills themselves, where the fees will be high and the reputation low. The fact that there is a petition option doesn’t mean that it works, and it wouldn’t for this situation in the grad programs I know.

          1. Anon for this*

            I want to clarify one thing as I’m seeing some loose use of words in this thread (and I work in higher ed admissions):
            Most for-profit schools are nationally accredited. Most non-profit schools are regionally accredited (this carries much more weight).
            Most (not all, but most) non-profit schools will not accept undergraduate degrees obtained from for-profit schools as the accreditation standards are not the same. So if you have a UofP degree, you will not be admitted into a master’s program.
            So it’s quite likely that most legitimate non-profit colleges will not accept OP’s undergrad degree.

            1. Anon for this*

              And following on from what someone said above: “Petitioning” will have no effect whatsoever.

            2. yup*

              UofP is regionally accredited. Unless the new school specifically say they will not accept a degree from a for-profit school, the OP is still eligible.

              Your personal experience with your school may be that the petition will not have an impact. My experience with multiple schools is different. It is worth a shot.

              1. Anon for this*

                UofP is one of the few for-profits that is regionally accredited, that’s true. I just don’t want to get the OP’s hopes up (and from what fposte says OP’s school is nationally accredited, so it’s moot).

                I’ve worked in many schools and petitioning for something as major as accepting vs. not accepting a prior degree (based on school policy) is so rarely granted that it’s not really worth mentioning as a possibility.

                1. fposte*

                  In fact that national accreditation body isn’t even federally accepted any more. Basically, it was an accreditation mill.

              2. fposte*

                I’m not clear–are you saying you saw reputable master’s programs accept undergraduates with bachelor’s degrees from Corinthian, ITT, or another school that was shuttered and their accreditation body lost federal recognition? Because my impression is you were talking for-profits and online but not schools that have been basically debunked as schools even down to the accreditation, and I think there’s a big difference there.

                I’m not saying that there’s no school that would take their credits for bachelor’s and eventually accept them into the master’s–I wouldn’t even swear that there isn’t some kind of provisional arrangement–but that’s not the same thing as accepting a student into the master’s program outright. Even the recommendation letters are going to be a problem.

                1. yup*

                  It is definitely going to be more challenging with the National accreditation, but still doable enough that it is worth a shot. There are lots of legitimate schools that started programs specifically for displaced ITT students once that school disbanded. I couldn’t find a comprehensive list, but if you search on Google and go through the news articles, you can find multiple examples.

                  When I worked in Higher Ed, I saw just about EVERYTHING get approved and sometimes I was like “WTF, are they serious?!” A lot of it comes down to how good of a writer you are and how persuasive you can be. I’m not kidding.

                  What will usually happen in these cases on the admissions side, is you will get some kind of provisional acceptance: you have been accepted for the first term, you must have a GPA of 3.0 or whatever by the end of that term. If you can meet this requirement, you will be fully accepted. It’s almost like enrolling as a non-degree student, proving yourself and then moving into the degree.

                  I can’t speak for everyone else’s experience, which seems to be different. However, I have worked with several schools and I have seen this enough times that I think it is worth a shot.

    2. ella*

      I don’t have any advice to offer other than what’s already been put out there, but I want to add my commiseration. I’m so sorry, OP. It sucks.

  9. AndersonDarling*

    Are there any certificate programs in your field? I know it stinks to shell out another $3K for more education, but if you could have anything on your resume, it would help fill the gap. A program in quality, LEAN, marketing, really anything that is reputable in your field would help. I’d check job ads and see what “extras” companies are looking for in their candidates.
    And so very, very sorry you are in this spot.

    1. SansaStark*

      I was coming down here to suggest the same thing. A relevant certification from a rigorous program might be just as beneficial as a degree, depending on your field.

    2. Namast'ay In Bed*

      OP, if you’re at all in the marketing field (or want to be), I HIGHLY recommend getting Google Analytics Certified. It’s self-guided learning, extremely educational, and best of all, it’s free! After completing the trainings you take the Google Analytics Individual Qualification exam. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s done on your own time, won’t take years to complete, and it’s a completely legitimate certification from Google that is very practical and useful. Check out Google Partners, it should have all the info you need.

      Also, I’m very sorry about your situation, that sucks more than I can say.

  10. KellyK*

    When you’re looking for junior level jobs with companies that tend to promote from within, also pay attention to whether they offer tuition reimbursement. Even if a job itself isn’t what you want to be doing, if it’s close enough that they’d pay for a degree you do want, it might be worth it. That degree might move you toward something you do want to do in that company, or make you more attractive to other employees. Do pay attention to the terms, though. A lot of employers require you to stay a couple years after the last class they pay for or pay the money back. You also have to report it as income, which affects your taxes.

    Also, if you know anybody who hires people in your specific field (or can find them through friends, family, or LinkedIn), you might be able to get good advice from them. Questions like, “When you’re hiring teapot designers, are there things on a resume that would make up for lack of a degree?” can give you a good idea what to emphasize and what your chances are like. Those are also the people I’d ask about things like an associate’s degree. Obviously, you don’t want to take on more student debt at this point, but it would be worth finding out if a two-year degree from a community college would be helpful.

    *If* it would be useful, then you can look into whether it’s actually doable—is there a school near you with classes that fit your schedule, what kind of financial aid is available besides loans, etc. Since you’ve already got a lot of debt, the last thing you want to do is put time and money into an associate’s degree without some evidence that it’ll be helpful, even as a short-term step to get you somewhere with tuition assistance. But, in some fields, it’s definitely better than just high school.

  11. Temperance*

    LW, this is really heartbreaking. I would recommend checking for jobs at your local community college or university. They typically offer a break on tuition, which could help you get a degree for no cash out of pocket.

  12. Cucumberzucchini*

    Well that sucks! So sorry you’re in this situation. I don’t know what you’re interested in studying, but check out http://www.uopeople.edu/

    It’s an online accredited TUITION FREE University. Maybe it would align with what you’re interested in doing and you could get a cost free degree?

    1. Anon for This*

      Just to clarify, there are many types of accreditation. The most valuable type is Regional through the US Dept of Ed. This school is accredited through something called the Distance Education Accrediting Commission which appears to be “recognized” by the Dept of Ed but not actually affiliated.

      1. Cucumberzucchini*

        Yes, but it’s free so for someone who has limited financial resources this might be a good option.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          But if it just leads OP to more frustration in feeling that more time was spent in something that can’t pay off, OP might be better off looking into community colleges and available grants.

        2. maggiegirl98*

          This is not free. It is tuition free. You pay at the end of courses for your exams. Education is never free as it is a time-intensive endeavor. Even MOOCs aren’t free–they are subsidized by the school that pays the profs, TAs, and IT people, to teach and manage the course and infrastructure. OP, I do not recommend you do this.

  13. Katie the Fed*

    No idea how this suggestion will go over, but something to consider – you might look into joining the military. You’ll get lots of experience and can use the GI bill to go back to school during/after your service.

    It’s not for everyone, but it’s an option.

    1. Spooky*

      A few months ago I’d have seconded this, but given how liberally our new POTUS has been slashing veteran benefits just in the first few days of his administration, I’d be very wary of doing this.

      1. KellyK*

        At the very least, definitely get good advice on what benefits you’ll actually get, what questions to ask, and what happens if the GI bill is repealed or benefits change partway through your enlistment. I’m not sure where you’d go for that info, maybe a veterans’ advocacy group or an employment lawyer? But you need someone with expertise and who’s unbiased, rather than going solely by what a recruiter says.

        1. The Strand*

          Thank you for this Kelly. Some recruiters flat out lied to the men my better half served with. If you don’t have a nearby advocacy group, go onto Military dot com and related sites and mention what they are promising you.

    2. Uyulala*

      And with the degree already, OP could join as an officer and get extra leadership training and experience!

  14. Snarkus Aurelius*

    When I was in the federal government, I worked on efforts related to for-profit universities and the messes they create. It has been awhile so I won’t try to advise you on what I barely remember, but I strongly suggest you look into what the government is doing to help people like you.

    The Department of Education might be able to help, but I think you’ll have better luck with your Member of Congress. Check both! At the very least, a Congressional legislative assistant may know something and/or be able to direct you to some reputable resources. You should do your best to exhaust this option as well as you can. I have some hope that all might not be lost. Make an appointment at the local district office as soon as you can. I guarantee you this is an issue Congressional offices are familiar with.

    That said, I cringe at the $100K debt you have been saddled with. I’d like to know how on earth that school got away with charging that much and no regulatory body noticed. For comparison, average debt for law and med school is around $140-166K. The average price tag for an undergrad degree is about a third of what you paid.

    AAM is right. You need to get that degree off your resume ASAP and try to replace it with experience or some other cheaper education element, if you can. The schools’ terrible reputations far outweigh any benefit you could have received.

    I’m sorry.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      “I’d like to know how on earth that school got away with charging that much and no regulatory body noticed. ”

      This is going to get worse. Alison, thanks for publishing this. We need to warn people away from these predatory schools.

    2. Rebecca*

      I will say, my daughter was set to go to Ohio State last year and in state tuition was going to be right around $22K a year including room/board. Not that I’d advocate taking out loans for the entire amount, but if you did and graduated in 4 years you’d owe $88K. At an in state university. Yes, go to community college first, work through school, yada yada my kid ended up going to trade school instead.

      College costs are just plain insanity.

      OP, I have an accounting degree from U of Phx, that I got in 2001 back when they were almost the only online option out there. I am devastated that my degree is essentially worthless now, but I found a small accounting firm willing to hire me anyway and I’m hoping the work experience at some point cancels out the reputation of my degree. Good luck to you!

      1. Just Another Techie*

        The flagship OSU is pretty expensive, yeah, but there are other state schools (like Wright State, where I took a bunch of summer classes when I was in high school) that are far more affordable.

        1. Rebecca*

          There are definitely cheaper schools (although Wright State is actually quite a bit more expensive than OSU), I was just commenting that it isn’t difficult to go into that kind of debt on a bachelors degree even at a traditional in-state school. I happened to pick the one I’m familiar with, and room/board is over a third of that cost so yes there are plenty of ways to save money. We were exploring those with my daughter when she decided to become a hairdresser and use that income to pay her way through college instead :)

      2. Natalie*

        Those for-profit schools are all commuter campuses though, so that was just tuition. No room and board, which probably accounted for half of what you were quoted.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Right. The state school my daughter is looking at is about $20K per year, with about half of that being room and board.

      3. automaticdoor*

        Haha, I just checked and my alma mater’s tuition is up to over $49k! JUST TUITION. When I went tuition was HALF that, which is still expensive but the total annual cost was about $50k. It’s a very good school, but I would never pay $70k+ per year to go there. In retrospect, I probably should not have taken out the loans I did to go there. Not $100k, but not much less than that.

      4. BPT*

        But that’s including room and board – online degrees don’t include that. So if OP included how much she paid in rent/mortgage and food during the time she got the degree (4 years?) then that would be a more comparable figure. Or just comparing the actual tuition payments.

    3. Dan*

      Regulatory bodies didn’t notice because the government doesn’t regulate tuition. Hell, at state schools, they increase.

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        Agreed. What is there to notice? School is expensive now.

        People I graduated from undergrad with have over 100k in debt. Now they’re making 100k straight out of school, so I suppose it was worth it, but… 100k of student loans is shockingly normal now, not just at for-profit schools

      2. Snarkus Aurelius*

        What I meant was in terms of loan money the feds were issuing. The Department of Ed has a huge stake when they dole out loan money for worthless degrees that thousands of people like the OP can’t pay back.

        1. Natalie*

          The blame for this does not lie at the feet of the federal government, or at least not entirely. Federal loan money isn’t actually limitless. The caps differ depending on year in school and whether you’re dependent/independent, but even as a worst case scenario under $60K of this loan balance is federal. The rest is almost certainly private loans.

          1. Natalie*

            Although apparently the Stafford loan limit has gone way, way up as of a couple of year ago… that’s dumb.

    4. AKJ*

      Me too! I went back to school at 25, and due to a number of factors I ended up taking loans out for tuition only – I worked the entire time, which covered my living expenses, books and whatever else, so my loans were pretty much strictly for tuition. A four year degree and a one year certificate on top of it at a state school and a community college ended up being a shade under $40K, 100% federal loans, no private.
      I’m certainly not jumping for joy to have $40K of debt but I’ve been repaying my loans through the income-based repayment program and it’s been surprisingly easy and affordable so far. (knock on wood) The difference in salary before and after, even when payments are factored in, has been very positive.
      I just feel so bad for OP, getting saddled with that much debt! I wish there was some sort of write-off program. So many people have fallen into this trap.

    5. Jonno*

      NOT SAYING THIS IS WHAT OP DID and debt from school is awful no matter what, but as someone who has worked in higher ed, I have seen students take out way more than the cost of attendance, so they end up owing more than the actual cost of their degree.

  15. Anon for This*

    I worked at a for-profit school for several years. If your program was regionally accredited, you should be able to transfer the credits to another regionally accredited school. The issue is more with accreditation than if a school is for or non profit. Many people do associate for profit schools with lower quality education and that may be accurate in some cases, but there are non profit schools that also fail to meet accreditation standards.

    Most schools have a ‘residency’ requirement that means you have to complete X% of your credits at that school in order to earn the degree, but that may be a far cheaper alternative than starting over from scratch.

    1. H.C.*

      This would work if the school isn’t already shut down, making credit transfers near impossible since there’s no one at the former school to verify that the OP took & pass those courses.

      1. Anon for This*

        That’s not necessarily true. You can still generally obtain transcripts from schools that are closed, but sometimes it requires a little bit of hoop-jumping to get them.

          1. fposte*

            There are still schools willing to accept some transfer credits from the closed schools notwithstanding the national accreditation.

          2. Anon for This*

            I wouldn’t say most. The ones under the umbrella I worked for all held regional accreditation. It does vary widely depending on the school.

            The difference between regional and national accreditation is the scope of the degree. Regional is more for colleges/universities whereas National tends to be more for trade schools/certification programs.

            1. Anon for this*

              I don’t remember the source to cite this unfortunately, but the recent figures I saw indicated that upward of 70% of for-profit schools are nationally accredited only. So I think that saying most is accurate.

              1. fposte*

                I also think that accreditation body for the for-profits is likely to be ACICS, which is a deeply problematic accreditation. So it’s not just regional/national but which body.

    2. The Strand*

      I would agree, this is something worth investigating. Talk to advising at the closest public college or community college near you if they were regionally accredited by the same group (such as SACS – Southern Association of Colleges and Schools). If you can show that your credit *was* accredited by the same group at the time you took it, you may be able to get them transferred.

      Do check your local community college; the one down the road from me has gone out of their way to help ITT students.

  16. Mark in Cali*

    Isn’t there a class action law suite happening against some of these places? I know in MN two for-profit schools (really the same parent company) were shut down because their criminal justice program was advertised as a way to become a cop, but then all the police orgs said, “Your curriculum has nothing to do with what we teach.” The whole school system was shut down because of that problem and I know there’s lots of legal action being taken to get students their money back. If there’s no cost involved, I would check in with a class action law firm to see what they know.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes. You actually don’t need to find a firm. Google the university’s name, your state, and “class action,” and there’s a strong chance you can find what’s already been filed or settled (a lot of state AGs have cracked down and won settlements for fleeced students).

  17. Rusty Shackelford*

    The problem is, I want to show that I had the tenacity to finish a bachelors degree and that I do have higher education.

    Question for the collective… what would you think about leaving this off the resume but mentioning it in an interview if it seems relevant? Would you have the same knee-jerk reaction to Profit University if an applicant said “A challenge? Well, I got a degree online while working full-time, and the challenges this presented were X, Y, and Z. Unfortunately, I went through Profit University, because I was naive/because it was before we knew how bad for-profit universities are. Big mistake on my part, I don’t even bother to put it on my resume any longer, but it showed me that I can accomplish A, B, and C.”

    1. Katie the Fed*

      If you were otherwise a really sharp and good candidate, this might tug on my heartstrings a little – in your favor. But if you weren’t a strong candidate it wouldn’t push you over.

    2. Abby*

      I agree that it might be valuable to mention in an interview. Because the OP did do the work. However, it depends on the school and the degree.

    3. Spooky*

      To me, this shows more negative things about the candidate than positive. It’s a little akin to saying, “I was tricked into buying the Brooklyn Bridge, but I did do some research about suspension bridges etc before I bought it. So hey, at least I got swindled into fake-buying a GOOD bridge.”

      Sorry – I really don’t mean to be rude, but I wouldn’t want to bring it up at all. Focus on the positives, and the degree isn’t one.

      1. k*

        That would be my worry. OP mentioned already being worried that their job history didn’t look great, so I’d be very hesitant to offer up something else that could be seen in a negative light. You don’t want to give a potential employer reason to question your judgement.

      2. Temperance*

        That’s how I’m seeing it, too. Plus, with talking about the challenge/effort it took, you could also be selling yourself short and portraying yourself in a negative light, as these schools aren’t really known for academic rigor.

      3. KellyK*

        Maybe it’d be work better as an answer to a question about a mistake you learned from. Especially if you’re already in the process of getting an associate’s degree or a relevant certification to replace the less useful degree.

    4. AM*

      Unfortunately if you leave the degree off many companies that use an Applicant Tracking System (the portal in which you apply thru) you will not even be looked at. If you have 200 applicants applying for one role the recruiter will filter results by looking for the “minimum” requirements”. The hiring manager will tell them a degree is requirement. If you do not put that you may not get looked at. Yes, in the interview you can explain your degree/school. I myself attended a for profit school due to I needed the online flexibility since I worked full time. Thankfully I have worked in roles that have allowed me to move up to where I am now. Good luck OP hopefully you can obtain certifications in the area you are wanting to pursue. That should help aide you in your job search.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        Not all jobs (even professional ones) require a college degree. Typically it will be degree or X number years of experience. I would encourage the OP to continue to get that experience, as limited as it is, while continuing to look for an opportunity at a company that does promote from within and has tuition reimbursement.

      2. AKJ*

        I’m not saying this to you, AM, but to anyone else reading and possibly considering a for-profit school for the same reasons: many community colleges and state schools offer more flexible options than they once did. I was able to do a fair amount of my coursework online or during evenings and weekends. I worked full time for most of the time as well. My roommate who just finished his AA at our local community college did whole semesters online. He also works full time.
        I say this only because for-profit schools use that as a big selling point – they offer this wonderful flexibility that other schools do not, and often that’s not true – it’s just that your local community college has a much smaller advertising budget to showcase their non-traditional options. Please don’t let the for-profit schools sell you on the idea that they’re the only ones who offer flexibility for working adults.

        1. Natalie*

          And for whatever it’s worth, that wasn’t even true 10-20 years ago – it’s just that the good old non-profit schools with distance learning or online classes didn’t really advertise them, whereas for-profits spent quite a bit of money on advertising so they could keep raking in sweet, sweet, loan money.

      3. KellyK*

        Yeah, I think that if you’re applying for a job that lists a bachelor’s as a minimum, you may as well list it. I think the odds of being screened out because you don’t meet their minimums are higher than the odds of being screened out because you went to a for-profit school.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It would tug at my heartstrings (in a good way) as long as the candidate made clear that they realized their degree had no value. I’ve had people refer to their for profit degrees with pride, and I feel bad for them, but it worries me that they don’t realize their degree has no educational value.

      But regardless, you’d have to be a strong candidate to begin with to deploy this tactic without it blowing u in your face.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Right – it would be pointless if the job required a degree. I was just wondering if there were any aspects at all that could be used in a positive light, so the LW might feel her money wasn’t completely wasted, or if it was best to pretend the whole thing never happened.

        1. Sas*

          Right, but how is this person going to even get an interview when they’re competing against people that have “a degree”.? That’s the crux of the argument. If the Op can’t list it on the resume, you end up making assumptions based on many other things, some which are good suggestions from other posters.

    6. Trout 'Waver*

      As a hiring manager, it would be a negative to me. Avoid mentioning it all together. But, I will note that I’m in a STEM field where we tend to put a higher emphasis on degree and institution.

      1. Sas*

        You might want to try something. Open your eyes to the young people who got swindled into believing that they were putting their time and money into something valuable.

        1. Natalie*

          No one’s saying they aren’t compassionate to the LW – on the contrary, every single comment thus far is sympathetic and understanding. All the compassion in the world doesn’t turn a school that was so bad it was actually shut down into a decent school.

      2. Sas*

        Where is your judgement toward the people that approved the school to exist and “grant X degree”. That is my issue. Sure, some f–ker in high ranking office doesn’t get involved until someone has lost so much. “I’m in a STEM field where we tend to put a higher emphasis on degree and institution” OUT OF TOUCH and OUT TO LUNCH!!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Wait, what? Giving different weights to different institutions is perfectly legitimate when it’s based on the actual rigor of their academics.

        2. Allie*

          As someone who studied in a STEM field, institution can be everything. I personally attended a well known STEM program, and things like I was trained on equipment that most undergrads didn’t even get to touch, and was able to get published, and I was required to take two classes beyond Quantum, and an additional year of advanced math, than many undergrads with the same major. Quality of the institution absolutely matters.

          1. Anon Accountant*

            This is fascinating to me. Thank you for sharing specifics. I’ve always pondered the differences and knew they could be substantial. I don’t do any hiring FWIW.

        3. Esme Squalor*

          Regarding the first line of your comment, that is precisely the point; their school has NOT been approved to exist by the proper entities. Anyone can hang a shingle and “grant degrees.” I can print up a Bachelor of Magic in Wizardology for you from University of Esme right now, and that isn’t illegal (though you might be able to successfully sue me if I made you pay $100,000 for it and led you to believe it would grant you a long and financially rewarding career).

          Of course the people who operate and enable these fraudulent institutions are very much to blame, but that doesn’t change that the degree itself is relatively worthless. It’s like a pyramid scheme; you can harshly judge the con artist at the top making money by scamming others, but you also will doubt the judgment and life choices of the Facebook friend who’s aggressively hawking Amway products all over their page and bragging about being an “entrepreneur”– and rightfully so!

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m confused by your reaction because (1) what Trout said is accurate, and (2) your reaction is really rude.

          We can debate the institution-ranking practices of the world and why they’re limited, but that doesn’t change the reality that certain institutions offer more opportunities than others, and some are more rigorous than others. That, plus reputational networks, influences how hiring works in almost all fields that require a college degree.

          1. Sas*

            ” and (2) your reaction is really rude.” I feel like you saying this to my comment is rude also, and hurtful. This is a situation in which someone was taken for a big ride. I haven’t disagreed with any of the other part of your comment. I know you haven’t read my comments. What Trout said was something that they apparently have no real life connection to. Their comment was a criticism of the OP ever mentioning the degree, not whether or not it is a valid degree. The school was not “just handing out the degrees” as much as everyone actually says that. I stand by my comment that if someone could respond to another comment telling OP that their degree is something that they should never ever mention, as someone else compares this school choice to the “on the Nigerian Prince Scheme”. Sure, that’s reasonable. That’s kind of what happens when you allow one harsh comment to slide, another comes harder. I do not think I was rude, if I was I didn’t mean to be. That comment Tw made seemed as if it was coming from a high up place. Good for Tw. Banana Hammock, I found your comment generally saying I was rude, to be well rude.

        5. Sas*

          It’s a disagreement on whether or not to mention the degree ever, not whether or not the degree is valid. ” Giving different weights to different institutions is perfectly legitimate when it’s based on the actual rigor of their academics.” Sure. But it is out of touch in my opinion to suggest that someone who didn’t go through X tells someone else, don’t ever mention it. To your quote Aam, I agree. Tw said, “Don’t ever mention it.” Who allows the school to ever exist and grant a degree in the first place? Probably someone who would not ever have to handle the fall-out and impact of said choice.

    7. HRish Dude*

      To me it shows more naivety. It’s like mentioning how hard you worked on the Nigerian Prince Scheme. At the end of the day, you were scammed and you bought it hook, line, and sinker.

  18. Addison*

    OP, hang in there! I went to a for-profit school when I was about 19ish. Had dropped out of high school and slacked on getting my GED until right as I started at the “college” I went to, and I didn’t know the difference about anything. What I have isn’t even technically a “degree.” It’s a certificate. I took a seven-month course with six months of class and then the last month was meant to be an “externship,” but close to none of my classmates were able to be placed in one. Lots of students, not enough opportunities. The school is still running, but there’s a class-action lawsuit going on for everyone who who was promised that foot in the door and didn’t get it. I was one of the extremely lucky ones – I happen to type over 150 WPM and the career center not only found me a placement, but it wasn’t a useless, unpaid month of work – I got Actual Hired.

    I mean, the job turned out to be kinda sucky and the pay wasn’t great, but hey.

    It took me a long time to realize how useless my “degree” actually is, and that I incurred buttloads of debt for… basically no reason. And because I was placed in a job I can’t even partake in that lawsuit! But after a couple of years I did manage to find a spot at the job I’m in now and I’ve been slowly, slowly wheedling my way up the pay grade for almost 4 years now. I think I could probably be doing better with a “real” degree, but it’s something, and there’s a lot of internal promoting so I’m confident that I can make something out of it. So I believe you can too!

    I’d actually suggest seeing if you can get some help from a staffing agency. I was working with a place that usually just hire out temps but lucked out (again!) and the place I’m at was temp-to-hire. The agency people might be able to “sell” you a little better than you can yourself, and while it may not immediately end in a permanent position right away, you can at least start to build up your resume with skills and experience to make up for the empty space where education should go.

    1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      Wanted to second the staffing agency idea. I had a VERY hard time getting started in my career. It was the height of the recession and my particular degree seemed to be no more valuable than a hand made certificate with a gold star sticker on it. I was submitting my resume to hundreds of places (over the course of a year of unemployment). Going through staffing agencies was the only thing that got me started. I realize the LW’s situation is a bit different and my heart goes out to her, there does seem to be some parallels.

      Sometimes it’s tough to get in with a good staffing agency, but if you can get “in” and its a good fit for your skills/industry they can do wonders to get you interviews at places that might not otherwise be willing to consider you based on your resume alone. If you do go this route (I do realize its not feasible for everybody), my advice is this: when you show up to meet with the recruiter/staffing agency treat it with the same seriousness as a job interview. Dress as you would a very serious job interview and do your research on the agency. If you wow the recruiter they will be more willing to go to bat/push for you with potential employers. Also, be willing to meet with multiple staffing agencies/recruiters (though that does probably depend on your area). I’m in NYC and I found that almost all agencies (even if they claim to be general/unspecialized) had a niche that they were best known for or had the best connections to. Once I found the agency with the best connections to my career level/goals (in my case – entry level admin work in the finance world) I ended up getting quite a few interviews with them, eventually landed a role and then was able to to work my way up from there. I still struggle with feeling “behind” in my career, but it was the only thing that enabled me to get my foot in the door.

      It just might be worth speaking to a few staffing agencies to try and get to a stepping stone job – one that you might be able to grow from or one that might offer tuition reimbursement.

  19. BrownEyedGirl*

    So, the key here is to find a cheap way to get a new degree. Someone else suggested getting a job at a university. That would be perfect. If you can’t do that, then get a job at another place that pays for education.Example: Starbucks offers full tuition coverage for baristas.

    1. Kelly L.*

      WOW! I didn’t know that! I might have to look at it myself–I even know some of the job, having worked at a Starbucks a looooong time ago.

    2. MCL*

      Many universities do not give any tuition breaks to employees. Some do, but they’re getting rarer. I work at a large state university and don’t get tuition breaks here.

        1. MCL*

          I’d say some do, but it’s a benefit that’s growing rarer. For example, my alma mater (a private liberal arts university) used to offer it as a benefit for employees and their children, but they don’t any longer. I think it was stripped away in 2012 or so. I worked at another private university that did and still does offer tuition remission as a benefit for employees. I just want to emphasize that free tuition for university employees is not a given, even though people often assume it is. People do ask me occasionally if I get to take free classes by virtue of being a university employee (I do not), so it’s an incorrect assumption that’s still fairly widespread.

          Definitely do your research if this is a benefit that would be a way to receive credits without compounding your debt. If you’re enrolled a certain percentage of time, you may also be able to defer your other loans.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            When I worked at a state university, we received a 50% tuition waiver. However, that didn’t affect the fees, which are currently more than tuition at that particular school.

            1. Been There - Done That*

              FT employees at our Community College pay 1/3 tuition and get additional professional development funds which may be used at other schools, for certifications, etc. PT employees may take 1 class per semester at the reduced rate.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            You’re totally right, and it’s fair to add texture to the conversation.

            I wonder if the private/public distinction makes a difference, also? Our public universities don’t comp your tuition (and to be fair, tuition is the cheapest part of the overall cost of attendance), but they do offer discounts for some categories of staff, and they definitely make “extension” classes available at a discount to employees.

      1. Pommette*

        It’s getting rarer, and many of the universities that still offer tuition breaks have cut back on their programs. My school (a large public university; it’s in Canada so the state/non-state distinction doesn’t apply) now only offers breaks to people who have been employed for more than two years, and only offers the break on one course per semester. It’s a fun perk for long-term employees, but it’s not a realistic option for someone who wants to get a degree within the next decade.

        University jobs are also increasingly hard to come by. Many universities have moved, or are moving, towards more casual forms of employment. They are increasingly likely to hire people on temporary contracts (no benefits), or to deal with large sub-contractors (whatever benefits the sub-contractor’s employee might have, they aren’t provided by the university). Jobs that were available to people without college degrees are particularly likely to be displaced by the latter trend. None of the janitorial, security, or food services staff at my university are actually university employees anymore.

        1. MCL*

          Absolutely. My large state university in the USA is at odds with the state legislature, and our budgets are increasingly tight. We are trying to do more with a lot less, and unfortunately most of our departments have to tighten belts using salary lines. That means not filling positions. That’s not to say it’s impossible to get a job! The OP might be in an area that does have job openings in higher ed. There are other jobs that will also help pay for college (Starbucks being one example), so looking outside academia is probably a good move as well.

          Others have suggested looking into transferring credits, etc, which may be a good place to start. The OP is unfortunately not in a unique position, and there are academic institutions out there who would likely work with the OP on this.

          1. Pommette*

            I agree that it’s not impossible! And, like you point out, there are good employers out there, and some are willing to invest in employees’ education.

            It feels like bad form to post something negative in a thread where so many people are trying to help the OP find solutions. But I want to acknowledge that the OP is in a legitimately difficult position. Many of the solutions being proposed are long-shots, and are only going to be viable for a minority of the many people who are in situations like the OP’s. Even solutions that seem straightforward (university employment+tuition breaks) are inaccessible to many, many people, and are becoming more inaccessible as time goes on.

            I don’t want to sound discouraging, or to suggest that things are hopeless for the OP. (They aren’t! there are a lot of suggestions here, and the OP only needs to find one that works for him/her.) But I want to recognize that the problem they have is a real and difficult one, and that if some suggested solutions ultimately aren’t feasible, it won’t be because of any failure on the OP’s part.

            I agree with everyone else on one thing: OP, I really hope that you find a way to reach the professional goals for which you have already worked so hard!

            1. MCL*

              I also hope that the OP finds a workable solution to reach their goals! I agree that it’s hard to write things that might be discouraging, but I wanted to chime in to say that pursuing a job at a higher ed institution with the hope of receiving tuition remission should be researched carefully. I see that there are others in the comments who have been able to do this successfully, and I know others who were able to do this, so it is absolutely not impossible. Just dig hard into the benefits information!

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      To clarify: Starbucks baristas can get degrees through ASU Online. Their diplomas will not indicate “online” anywhere and many of the courses are taught by ASU faculty who teach on campus.

      It’s an amazing opportunity. Starbucks does a great job taking care of their staff.

  20. Ghenna Remana*

    This may be terrible, controversial advice, but is there any way to list a “BS, General studies,” under the Education section of your resume, without naming the school? Just to show that you do have a degree, and to get you in the door? All you need is to get over the hump to get called back, then you’d at least have a shot to impress them with your actual skills …

    1. Temperance*

      Honestly, I would see that as a red flag. If you don’t have enough stock in the institution to list it, don’t list it.

    2. MoinMoin*

      I think that’d be seen pretty clearly as lying by omission. If OP can articulately talk about this in her cover letter or interview- how she got this degree and this is what she got out of it and yes, she understands and isn’t equivocating it with an accredited degree- her presentation will carry a lot less risk as being perceived as dishonest.

      OP, I’m sorry and good luck. FWIW though, many recent (and not so recent) grads from accredited universities are having a lot of trouble breaking into a career, getting even entry level work and more so moving up out of entry level work. So your path may be more slippery, but you’re not trudging up this hill alone.

    3. fposte*

      Two problems I see: one, if the actual degree wasn’t in general studies, which I bet it wasn’t, that’s lying on the resume; two, the utter untrackability of it suggests “I made this up and didn’t actually go to college.”

      Resumes are all about accountability–employers want to see what you did and know who to verify that with. This is like putting “Account Executive” as a resume line without saying the employer.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yep. My partner has a B.A. in “Liberal Arts & Sciences” from a large, well-known public university, and the major title was so nonsensical, the school changed the program to “Interdisciplinary Studies, Concentration in [focus area]” two years after he graduated.

      2. Ghenna Remana*

        Oh, to clarify, I didn’t mean put “general studies” if your degree isn’t general studies … I mean list your actual degree – which you did earn! People are strongly opposed to this suggestion though so I retract it.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This would be a massive waving red flag. Anytime I’ve seen someone do this, they were straight up lying about their degree (they had some college at a not particularly brand name school and never completed their degree but did several years of coursework, but some were never enrolled/admitted anywhere and had watched random free MOOC lectures).

      I strongly recommend against this approach.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        We also degree-check people, so they’d have to provide their educational institution at some point. (There was a run of people lying about their degrees in my industry a couple of decades ago, so EVERYONE gets verified now.)

        1. Anon Accountant*

          I’ve noticed more frequently candidates need to provide college transcripts with their applications or before an offer is made to prove they actually have their degree. A recruiter told me this was because of candidates lying about their degrees.

    5. Anon Accountant*

      I don’t do any hiring but this would look to me like “they forgot to list their college they got their degree from” and look like an oversight. And of attention to detail was important to the job you may be looked over for the “oversight” and as though you hadnt proofread your resume. In my opinion anyway.

  21. regina phalange*

    OP, I am so sorry. I agree with everything Alison suggested. Some of my coworkers are working on masters degrees through for-profit schools and I don’t have the heart to tell them that these degrees will more likely than not, not be taken seriously. Someone mentioned that a team member who is working on his masters from this for profit school could have a leg up on me in the future and it was all I could do not to be like…you’ve got to be kidding me, come back to me when he’s getting his MBA from Stanford and not Ashford.

  22. Sas*

    Posts like this, really are disheartening. Why couldn’t the person put that on their resume and have some sort of caveat, I know how this looks, but you know it took effort!? Uhh I had a friend who went to good school in Virginia and cheated her way through the first year, literally. How is that better really. And who decides? I don’t know

    1. Temperance*

      Because going to a for-profit school can show questionable judgment, and if you try and brag about the effort it took, it will make you look worse. These schools are not known for their academic rigor.

      1. Sas*

        Right, but my comment, and I stand by it, suggests that without “bragging” someone could try to convince another person that there is some worth in some school that they spent years doing.

        1. Temperance*

          And I stand by my comment. I think it would make the person look worse. They made a bad decision or mistake, and to double down on that looks foolish.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Because, fair or not, work isn’t measured in effort, it’s measured in outcome.

          The outcome here is that OP’s degree is looked upon negatively by employers and may be hindering her employment prospects. The letter states that outright. Drawing attention to the degree by providing extra explanation is unlikely to make a difference for people who would be put off hiring by it in the first place. Fairly or unfairly, providing extra explanation could come across as an excuse or read as though OP thinks that putting in time and effort is more important that outcome. (BTW, there is nothing in the letter that makes me think either of these — OP seems to be a fully cognizant of what’s going on and looking for advice moving forward — but I would advise a resume be designed to focus a hiring manager on her other accomplishments/skills and not on the degree.)

          It is grossly unfair to OP that a for-profit school put her in debt, used up so much of her time, and left her with a degree of marginal to detrimental value. I’d imagine that it’s a good part of the reason the school was shut down. I wish there was some way to make them pay for her to get a useful degree to make up for it.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      But cheating at a real school is distinct from cheating/attending a “fake” school (which is how employers perceive for-profit schools). It’s not fair, but these also aren’t equivalent scenarios.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Seriously. Apples to oranges comparison. The cheating friend cheated herself out of an education; a school that lacks academic rigor to meet regional accreditation standards is cheating the students.

        1. fposte*

          Yup. For one main reason, employers aren’t going to know about the one, assuming she eventually graduated in good standing, when they look at her college degree; they’ll know about the other. For another, the cheater still had to have the achievement credentials to get into the school, and presumably attended decent and informative classes at least in year two, three, and four and probably even in year one; the odds of the ACICS-accredited schools being as informative across the board aren’t high.

          I’m not saying that one person is great and the other person is awful; I’m saying that in hiring the first-year cheater still manages some credentials that speak to her talent in the way the Corinthian grads don’t.

    3. Ellen Ripley*

      Yeah, I agree. I know that a lot of for profit schools were/are sketchy and don’t always provide the best education. I also know from personal experience that a lot of well regarded programs at ‘name’ universities are a complete joke. Either they’re coasting on their reputation, full of bureaucratic hoop jumping without any real rigor, or hide their money grubbing ways behind a facade of intellectualism.

      All I associate with someone who has a degree from one of these for profits is that they were naive and/or desperate, or from a background that didn’t teach them how important it is to play the game, where the reputation of your institution is much more important than what you actually learned.

    4. Marcela*

      I agree. It’s horrifying that choosing the wrong educational organization can be used against you. It’s like you are supposed to know from thin air, because people from educated families do not fall into these schemes. Being from a poor non educated family, I could see myself falling to something like this. Actually, something similar is happening in my country, and it’s not the educated middle class the one suffering the consequences. However, I’m not surprised. The lack of empathy for the less fortunate does not surprise me at all.

      1. Temperance*

        It’s not a lack of empathy, though, nor is it merely a choice being used against you. When you’re hiring someone for a job, you’re going to take the candidate with the degree from the nonprofit university. For-profit programs are less academically rigorous, and their bad reputation has been widely known for years.

        I’m the first person in my family to get a degree. I know how difficult it can be to navigate the system. However, this information is widely available, and for-profits tend to cost significantly more than nonprofit institutions, including community colleges.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I think a lot of people have great sympathy for those who were taken advantage of by for-profit colleges. The information about these schools that has come out through the investigations and closures has been appalling, and it’s clear that they targeted lower-income students for the student loan money using a lot of fear/scare tactics. The segment John Oliver did on this would make a lot of people cry with anger (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8pjd1QEA0c).

          But I can’t give a job that requires a degree with accreditation to someone who doesn’t have the qualifications. I might like the person and empathize with their situation, but I can’t hire them. Often, I can’t even move them out of HR screening.

        2. KellyK*

          Yeah, unfortunately, you can have all the sympathy in the world, but when you’re hiring for a job, you want the best candidate, not the one who tugs at your heartstrings the most. Whether they knew or should have known that the for-profit degree was a bad investment is beside the point.

          It’s probably better to channel that empathy into pushing for stronger legal protections for people scammed by for-profit schools, or similar efforts.

      2. Mookie*

        Yes. The for-profit post-secondary “sector” thrives in countries with strong class and racial stratification and a weak or non-existent welfare state (coupled, almost by default, with poor to moderate public education). This is a tough one. Another example of how expensive and dispiriting it is to be poor and marginalized such that you are an easy, vulnerable mark for sub-prime grifters of every species, thriving (in the US, anyway) because we are deceived into believing that bootstraps and “merit” outweigh nepotism and privilege.

  23. Amber Rose*

    This story hurts my heart. I hope you get some ideas and courage from the advice posted here OP. You can still make this work, it’ll just be a little tougher than it should have been.

  24. Uhdrea*

    Definitely take it off your resume, OP. When I worked in hiring, the positions I was hiring for required a bachelor’s and a degree from a for profit college was an automatic rejection. I had better luck advocating for people with good experience and no degree than I ever did for those with for profit degrees.

  25. Dulcinea*

    I strongly encourage OP to contact their state’s attorney general because there is a chance they don’t have to pay this debt. They should also consult a bankruptcy attorney- a brief consult should be free.

    1. Liane*

      Isn’t one of the big problems with student loan debt that it is one of the few kinds that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy? IANAL, but IIRC, you are Dulcinea, that’s why I am asking.

        1. Natalie*

          It’s almost never granted. I’m not saying OP shouldn’t look into it, but it’s quite the long shot.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Undue hardship is a ridiculously high burden for student loans – like, not only is it impossible (not just hard) for you to pay it back now, it seems likely that it will always be literally impossible to pay it back. If you get a degree and have a ton of loans and make minimum wage? Out of luck, usually. If you get a degree and have a ton of loans and then get in a car crash and become completely and permanently disabled? That’s hardship.

          It is really crummy, but student loan debt isn’t dischargeable, 99.9% of the time. :-/

          1. fposte*

            Crap, my time-blocker ate my longer reply. I went down an interesting rabbit hole looking at dischargeability, and it’s actually variable depending on the court. The standard you and Natalie are talking about is the “certainty of hopelessness” standard, which is used in a lot of places, but there are courts that do totality of the circumstances and even a presumption of dischargeability if the debtor is at or below poverty level. So I think it’s worth it for the OP to check with a lawyer (which IAN) who really knows the student loan issues, not just bankruptcy generally, in her area.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Dischargeability is really hard to prove for educational loans, particularly for federal educational loans. DOE usually won’t release you from your obligation unless you’re totally disabled or have some other insane hardship (i.e., “poverty” is not an adequate hardship, even dire poverty—they just put your loans into forbearance). There are awful stories about situations in which someone was totally disabled by a freak accident and still couldn’t get their debt discharged without going through a second trip through hell.

              The reason you’re getting different results by court is not actually a jurisdictional issue; it’s a judge issue. All bankruptcy is federal, and it’s all in “equity” (i.e., it’s about fairness and principles/considerations regarding the trade offs and promises that were made and now being discharged, as opposed to being about strict legal rules), which means it rides on how a judge perceives the case and the parties.

              If you’re negotiating a loan discharge directly with your bank, that can vary widely by state. But otherwise, the rules re: bankruptcy discharge are fairly uniform at the federal appellate court level (there are certainly issues that have a significant circuit split, but they’re fairly limited/rare).

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I should correct myself. It does vary by jurisdiction, but with student debt the state element varies significantly in importance (in some states, state law makes a big difference with respect to dischargeability of educational debt, in others it does not).

              2. fposte*

                This is where my not being a lawyer shows. So basically whether they use Johnson, Bryant, Brunner, or totality of the circumstances is up to the individual judge (or panel)? And just about everybody goes for Brunner?

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  It’s up to the court of appeal and the state in which the court’s located. So if you were in Pennsylvania, you’d follow the rule that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit requires.

                  The First Circuit (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island) and the Eighth Circuit (Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota) use a totality of the circumstances test. But courts in other jurisdictions have sometimes used that approach, despite being “Brunner” jurisdictions.

                  All other circuits, and thus all other states and territories, use the Brunner test, although some have modified it heavily (the Third, Ninth and Tenth) or added a “totality” approach (some courts in of the Second Circuit).

                  The Third Circuit (Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, U.S. Virgin Islands) uses the Brunner test and the Bryant poverty test.

        3. Artemesia*

          My husband did a pro bono case for a truck driver who had huge debt from truck driving school and was blind as the result of an accident and thus couldn’t drive. He was refused hardship discharge of this debt in bankruptcy. I think my husband finally prevailed here to help him get it but it was heavily resisted by the loan holder and the school. If being blind isn’t a hardship for repaying a loan for a trucker, the OP’s situation certainly isn’t.

          1. fposte*

            If it’s in the same jurisdiction, sure. But bankruptcy isn’t federal, so standards aren’t universal.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  It’s totally ok! You’ve been correct 99.9% of the time :) I just wanted folks to realize that there’s nuance, but it’s overall federal.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes, but if OP took our fed loans, they should look at DOE’s ptogram that allows you to discharge for-profit college debt.

        1. fposte*

          She graduated too long ago to be eligible; it’s unfortunately really not a retroactive program but one aimed at current students.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Ah, I missed the part about her graduation date. Then the best bet is to try to go back and renegotiate your loans. There are some relief programs in certain states, while others have large settlements that try to assist students with debt relief (although depending on your state, your piece of the settlement pie can be very small).

      2. Tequila Mockingbird*

        I just posted that below! Student loan debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, as every lawyer knows. And the “undue hardship” exception won’t work because every bankruptcy applicant has undue hardship!

        1. fposte*

          My investigations indicate that the undue hardship exception has varying standards in different jurisdictions, so I wouldn’t say “cannot” without knowing where the OP was and what jurisdiction applies.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think there’s a bit of confusion. All bankruptcy cases are governed by the federal Constitution, and they are all handled exclusively in bankruptcy court, where federal statutory provisions and federal procedure applies. However, state law exemptions and state law regarding property/trusts often govern very specific issues within a larger bankruptcy case (e.g., how was debt created? how is property divided? what is the order of priority? who’s a preferred creditor, and why?). This is why it’s not possible to give general bankruptcy advice without knowing a person’s specific case and jurisdiction.

    2. Tequila Mockingbird*

      NO! Student loan debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. A bankruptcy lawyer cannot help you with this.

    1. fposte*

      The problem is that the OP completed her degree years ago. The closed-school forgiveness is for those who haven’t completed it or very recent graduates.

  26. Mark in Cali*

    Another thought kind of related to this:

    I’m getting a second bachelor’s from a non-profit school online. These online models are quite new as far as I’ve learned (I was in three different programs before I landed on the one I’m in now and not one person had graduated from any of the program to date just because they are still too new).

    Crossing my fingers that one day the same fate of these for-profit schools doesn’t fall on these condensed online programs where a semester’s worth of material is shoved into 7 weeks of self-directed learning. I’m told that the courses have to be treated pretty similarly to the on-campus version to maintain accreditation. I feel like I’m learning more than I ever did in high school because I’m just a more mature and focused student now, but that doesn’t travel far in an interview.

    That said, many people on this blog have commented on getting degrees in the 80s through distance learning programs where lectures would be sent on VHS tapes! So the idea of distance and remote learning isn’t new, so I’m hopeful these programs maintain credibility.

    That said, nothing about my degree will say “online” when I get it, so who would ever know :)

    1. KellyK*

      I think you should be fine, because it’s a program at an accredited school. I personally might be skeptical of cramming a semester into 7 weeks of self-directed learning only because of the difficulty of confirming that you’ve done the same level of work as you would in a typical classroom. Some of this depends on the subject matter. If it’s a math class, a passing grade on the final exam shows pretty conclusively that you learned the material, but in the humanities, testing is much more subjective.

      But those are my concerns as a former teacher and someone who’s worked on instructional design, not something I’d hold against you in an interview. Even if that particular program is less rigorous than I might think it should be, I wouldn’t know whether a candidate with a traditional degree also got an easy ride because they had classes mostly with adjuncts who depend on positive student reviews to keep their jobs.

      Plus, the person reviewing your resume isn’t going to know any of that. They’ll know where you got your degree, but won’t have a window into the nitty-gritty of how the classes were run. I have a master’s degree from an online program. The only reason it would come up in an interview that it was online would be if someone noticed that I earned a degree from Utah State University while living on the East Coast and asked about it.

      1. Mark in Cali*

        Yeah, I don’t love the 7 week format much either, but I feel like I have more exposure to the subject in 7 weeks than I ever did in a full semester course just because it’s only one class at time (for me) and I’m constantly thinking about it material, reading it, watching videos, etc. That said, I don’t remember much of my Calculus I class (got a B in that), but then again most of the engineers I work with admit they are rusty with calc as well. I took a bible study course (it’s a religious institution so it was required), and I feel like a learned a lot and have had many interesting conversations about the subject since.

        But you are right, the employer won’t see any of that. Plus I’m studying computer science and as far as I’m learning, some people who hire programmers don’t even care if you went to school, they care if you can program!

        1. KellyK*

          That’s the great thing about comp sci. The skills are very measurable, and employers care more about skills in specific languages than about your exact degree.

    2. Newby*

      I think that is the key to getting a helpful online degree. If the university has a regular on-campus version and the degree won’t say one way or the other, it is less likely to hurt you. The university also has more incentive to keep the quality good because if the online quality is bad it will hurt the reputation of the regular degree as well.

  27. Anonymouse*

    Seconding that, if it can fit your field at all, you should look for your next job at a university with tuition benefits. Some, but not all universities will at the least provide substantial benefits, and at the most provide free tuition. I got my masters degree for free by doing this and went to school part-time in the evenings/online and worked a regular 9-5 at the university during the day. I got my masters from Georgetown in DC if that helps.

  28. krysb*

    OP, you should look into Thomas Edison State University. They will probably allow a transfer of most of the credits. It’s not the best of the best, but it’s an online state university in New Jersey.

  29. Tennessee INFP*

    Just thinking out loud here – but OP would any of your credits from that school transfer to a reputable university? (I attended just 1 school, so I’m not sure how transferring credits would work). But if you had a transcript of your classes, maybe another school would accept some of those classes toward a new degree/major and you wouldn’t have as far to go to obtain a degree as you might think.

  30. Tennessee INFP*

    Also, you may be able to test out of some of the same classes you’ve already had at a different university, even if they won’t give you credit for the classes you completed at the shady school.

  31. Ebrofin*

    Dear OP,
    I got my undergraduate degree at University of Phoenix back in the late 1990s, before all the scandals. It is an accredited school, and I was able to get an MBA and a post-graduate certificate from two non-profit, traditional schools that are both highly rated and ranked. So, there is hope! On my resume, I now list in reverse order — post grad, grad, and Bachelor of Science, Business Administration, 1998 with no school. In my view — I got into a good MBA school with that degree, and that should be good enough for any employer.

    For your specific situation, I suggest that you really focus on networking and referrals, and try to connect that way. You want to get in front of people, show who you are, and tell your story. In applications where you can write a cover letter, explain the truth. Many people are now aware of the for profit college scam, and have some empathy and understanding.

    As a hiring manager, I still have a lot of respect that you did study, you worked hard, and you made the effort. If you can enroll in a community college, even for one course, it’d be great to say I went to X school, I worked hard, here’s what happened, and now I am working to fix it. I would have so much more respect for this than I do for someone went the traditional four years straight out of high school and paid for by mom & dad.

    I do wish the best of success for you, and please remember there are hiring managers out there with more open minds.

  32. MuseumChick*

    I don’t have much advice to add to what has already been said. Just want to say I’m sorry you have to deal with this. It seems like you have a good list of advice here

    1) Look into working for a (reputable) university so you can take classes there
    2) Community College
    3) Certification programs.

    At your current job, do you think they would/could assist you with paying for a certification?

  33. Lisa*

    “Under pressure from lawmakers and advocacy groups, the administration in June said anyone who had attended a Corinthian school as of June 20, 2014, could apply for what’s known as a closed-school discharge of their federal loans. All other students were invited to file a claim if they could prove they were defrauded by their colleges.”

    So is Genesis loans private?

    1. fposte*

      Yup. The initial quote also isn’t quite correct–closed-school discharges apply to people who were unable to finish the program or finished it under 120 days ago, so plenty of graduates don’t have this recourse.

  34. Isben Takes Tea*

    I just want to add CONGRATULATIONS and kudos to the OP for doing all the work necessary for pursuing and completing the degree! It absolutely sucks that you’re in this position right now, and I hope some of the other commenter’s suggestions help.

  35. Rachel*

    Keep your eyes open for positions at reputable private colleges and universities. Many support staff positions require just high school diplomas and offer tuition reimbursement. Plus, your desire to takes classes and potentially earn another degree is likely to be well received during the interview process. I earned my masters degree working at a Jesuit university. My job was boring, but my salary was equivalent to a PhD’s living stipend and I saved more than $45k in tuition and fees.

    Have you asked your current company if they’ll pay for community college credits or certificates? I know a colleague who hadn’t completed her BA but was able to persuade our supervisor to pay for 3 classes a year, because they cost less than attending a conference and the courses were focused on skills that were in demand at work.

    1. Tuckerman*

      Working for a University is how I was able to finish a Bachelor’s and a Master’s. I highly recommend this path to anyone who wants options down the line.

  36. UX Designer*

    I think it absolutely depends on your industry but so many of the tech jobs these days hire from coding bootcamps or places like General Assembly. They still cost money and they may not be in your field, but you could consider reputable experience-based programs as well. I know a number of people who have pivoted in their careers by attending programs like these and they are great skill builder and network increasers. A number of them offer shorter programs, night programs and free or discounted meetups/weekend intensives. Depending on what you’re looking for they can be great ways to build on your skills AND network with more people who are doing similar work.

  37. Pineapple Incident*

    OP, I’m so sorry you’re going through all of this. You were swindled by a school that took advantage of your ambitions and that truly blows.

    If you can’t file to have your loans cancelled/reduced/whatever through the Department of Education, you may at least have other recourse through federal channels. If your loans are federal student loans, you can file for income-based repayment plans or a forbearance (statement that you can’t afford to make payments right now, but intend to in the future) depending on whether you can afford to make any payments at all. Eventually, income-based repayment is meant to forgive your loans- assuming you make a certain number of years of on-time payments. Whatever you do, reach out before you fall into delinquency or default with any one or more of your loans- once this happens, the government is much less able to extend help to you.

    I wish you luck, and I hope you end up in a better-paying job to start putting this behind you soon.

    1. Natalie*

      One note on IBR & forbearance: Don’t take your loan servicers word for it as to whether or not you will qualify. Look up the requirements yourself. One of the largest servicers (Navient) is being sued by the federal government and two states because they steered borrowers who would have qualified for IBR/ICR to forbearance instead, which is more profitable for them. Forbearance can really suck – the loans keep accruing interest and that interest is capitalized (you pay interest on the interest), and it’s incredibly demoralizing to have the loan amount jump back up to what it was when you graduated. It’s obviously better than default, but it should be a last resort IMO.

  38. Maya Elena*

    As far as companies that have good, staid, old-fashioned cultures, promote from with in, train a lot, have good benefits and offer lots of rotation opportunities, and tuition reimbursement for degrees: auto insurance! The really big ones especially (Geico, State Farm, Progressive, Allstate, USAA).

    And there is a regional giant all over the country: Allstate and State Farm in IL, Progressive in OH, Liberty Mutual – Boston, Geico- DC, USAA- Texas, WA- Safeco, PA- Erie….

    Don’t know what your chosen path is, but the following entry points are, to my knowledge, accessible without a degree and quite prospective, if demanding:

    1) Various call center work – claims, sales, service
    2) Claims/damage adjusters
    3) Compliance, licensing, other admin work
    4) Fraud investigation if you have a background in law enforcement (unlikely in your situation)

    This does not include working for individual agencies (which I don’t know much about).

    1. Bad Candidate*

      I would agree with this, even in other insurance lines. Just not the carrier I work for. LOL

      1. Maya Elena*

        Haha. My own former employer, which was pretty good, also has 50/50 good and terrible Glassdoor and Indeed reviews, for call center jobs in particular…. But I don’t know of any large company with call centers where that setting is pleasant job and generates good feelings. :p

        But you need to start out somewhere….

        1. Bad Candidate*

          I don’t work in the call center. :) But yes, I’d agree that any call center is likely going to suck, having done it before.

    2. Artemesia*

      I wonder if starting a job at a place that promotes from within and then revealing the BA later if it is criterion for the job might work. e.g. they know your work, you are a candidate, but they require a BA for management and thus might be more willing knowing you to consider your BA as meeting that requirement.

    3. Fortitude Jones*

      Two through four, but particularly three and four, require a degree at my company and the degree must be from an accredited school. Claims adjusters used to be hired in without degrees (and a few of our divisions may still accept candidates without them particularly if they’re going to work in a niche field like the trucking industry), but most of our job postings these days state a BA is the minimum requirement. And a lot of my claims colleagues have MBAs or JDs.

  39. Maya Elena*

    PS not to say that the above are great necessarily (eap call center) and that there isn’t lots of overwork and stress… But there are also rigid heirarchies, opportunity for promotion up the chain, lots of training to fit the company’s way of doing things, and access to the same benefits as the fancier corporate analyst/actuary positions get.

  40. Bad Candidate*

    Ugh this sucks, OP. I’m sorry. I went back to school and finished my BS three years ago. I went to a private, not for profit school that’s been around for 100 years. It hasn’t helped either, for various reasons. I asked my adviser about getting another degree in a different field, but he said I’d have to do 30 credit hours again, which would just double the debt I already have. If I’m going to do that, I might as well find a cheaper school. I wanted to commiserate. It sucks that you spent all that time and money going back to school to try to improve your life and it’s made things worse. :(

    1. J*

      While for-profit schools are an easy target, there are not-for-profit schools that have similarly dismal numbers. I have no clue if the Dept of Ed (should it survive the current administration’s efforts to trim bureaucracy) will even tackle those institutions, but it’s a bit unfair that the UoPs and DeVrys get all the derision.

      1. Bad Candidate*

        I kind of agree with this. I would not say that I got a quality education at my school and they waived some requirements likely so I could graduate and increase their numbers. According to their own policies, I should have had to retake my Accounting course, and they said it was NBD since it wasn’t in my major area. At the time I didn’t think much about it, and I wasn’t eager to repeat the class, but later I was thinking that they likely do that for anyone that gets even close to graduating.

  41. sunny-dee*

    This may not be directly relevant, but if the OP graduated 6 years ago, and presumably was working even before then, is the degree even relevant? I never had a single employer ask about my degree after my first job out of college — after 6 – 10 years of experiences, their work history should be a lot more important, especially since the past few years have been in their desired industry.

    Not that this isn’t disappointing, but maybe it really doesn’t matter anymore?

    1. Natalie*

      Degrees are used as gatekeeping a lot, in the sense that even after 6 years you “need one” for a lot of jobs, but no one especially cares what your major or GPA was.

      1. J*

        Indeed. I’m 20 years out from my alma mater, but it still opens the door during an application process. Few ask about the degree, no one asks about the GPA. But the Ivy-adjacent institution still gets attention.

      2. sunny-dee*

        But the OP does have a legit degree (from a craptacular institution). I’m assuming it’s something like University of Phoenix, which sucks but was real. In that case, the OP can use the degree as a checkbox, but past a certain point, you don’t even need to include it on your resume.

        J is in a different position — Ivy League or Ivy League-esque makes a difference as a networking tool, kind of like how fraternities open doors. But I went to a state school, so aside from the check mark (yes, has a degree) it doesn’t seem to matter at all what that school is.

        I’m just thinking that after all this time, the OP’s professional history and network should be a lot more valuable than the specific institution where they got their degree.

        1. Natalie*

          It probably depends on the specifics of the OP’s field and how publicly and recently the school imploded. And, for whatever it’s worth, I’d say this school is quite a bit worse the UofP because they were actually shut down. That’s fairly hard to do.

    2. cncx*

      i am 15 years out of my BA- from a state university with a, um, “quirky” reputation…i still get asked about ot from people who know my school, and most of the jobs i have applied for have had a BA as a requirement in the application process, even if they weren’t related to my field of study. So yeah, my BA still matters, unfortunately
      (i love my school, the “unfortunately” is more for OP).

  42. Former Retail Manager*

    First and foremost, I am soooooo sorry that this happened to you. As some others above seem to have alluded to, there may be some relief in obtaining a job in the Government or nonprofit sector. All levels of government jobs are eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (local, state, and federal) as well as nonprofits. It requires 120 months of payments under a qualifying federal loan repayment programs and you can get the balance of your Direct Loans (not private loans) forgiven at the end of that time with no tax impact to you. So many of the other options above have also been great but this is an avenue with a light at the end of the tunnel with regard to your crushing student loan debt. Under some of the income based repayment plans, you would likely pay very little, but would still be eligible for relief after 10 years worth of payments. Also, the payments don’t have to be consecutive or without a break. For example, you could work for a nonprofit for 4 years, go private for 2 years (payments during the private employment years won’t count) and then go to a Government job for the next 6 years and receive student loan forgiveness once you hit 120 months worth of payments.

    Best of luck, and again….so sorry!


  43. PinkCupcake*

    Related topic, I know, but has anyone else seen this “More Than Brains” commercial from the University of Phoenix. From the article I link to below, I guess it has been playing for a while. It is currently playing non-stop in my market so I’m just now noticing it. It strikes me as humorous/odd/irritating that one line of the song is “A degree is a degree.”


    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      It strikes me as humorous/odd/irritating that one line of the song is “A degree is a degree.”

      Yeah, that jumped out at me too. Gee, I wonder why they’d emphasize that? {insert rolling eyes here}

  44. Tequila Mockingbird*

    I don’t have any advice that hasn’t already been said – this is just depressing. It really makes me angry that for-profit schools have been allowed to take advantage of students this way.

    I firmly believe the government should change the requirements for college accreditation, and force schools to absolve students’ debts if they are found culpable of fraud or other illegal behavior. Schools should have a lot more skin in the game than they currently have.

    1. Professor Ronny*

      The government does not set accreditation standards, regional accrediting bodies due. Here in the south, the regional body is SACS, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. All the government does is require that the college be regionally accredited to receive federal financial aid.

      These for-profit schools generally are regionally accredited since that is the only way they can get government funds, like Pell grants. The real problem is the regional accrediting bodies do not make the effort to look into the rigor of the courses being offered. I looked at a graduate course in statistics from the a for-profit university, for example, and I could have finished all the work required for a semester long course in two days. There was just no rigor at all.

      Too many students are happy to find out the courses are easy. Too many other students have weak backgrounds and do not realize their courses lack rigor. Employers, however, have figured it out and will no longer consider their graduates.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Or hell, you can work really hard, but if you’re being taught the wrong info, then you’ve worked really hard at something that’s not actually going to help.

      2. fposte*

        Not following you–regional accreditation isn’t a requirement to be eligible for government funding as a student, and ITT and Corinthian were nationally accredited, not regionally accredited, schools. Did you just mean “accredited”?

        1. Professor Ronny*

          There are different types of accreditation. Our university is SACS accredited while the business school is AACSB accredited. For profit schools have their own accreditation body and I am not an expert in that but I am fairly certain that regional accreditation is the one that is required for federal financial aid.

          The U.S. Secretary of Education recognizes the agencies believed to be reliable authorities on accreditation and lists these agencies on the US Department of Education’s website. Making sure the agency your school is accredited by is on this list is the easiest way to ensure the accreditation is legitimate.

          1. fposte*

            Right, and our PhD program isn’t accredited at all, because the relevant org doesn’t do that.

            But what I’m saying is that the DOE doesn’t require regional accreditation; it approves some national accreditation as well (unhappily, one of its tips is for students to contact the financial office at their own school for information about eligibility). The students at the schools in question, which was nationally accredited, received massive federal loans. That accrediting body is no longer recognized by the DOE, but not because it was national.

      3. Artemesia*

        I have served on accreditation panels and they are quite rigorous and have represented an institution being audited for accreditation and they were quite rigorous there also. It is not nothing to be accredited and these are done by independent non govt bodies.

  45. Professor Ronny*

    The requirements for starting a masters degree are having an undergraduate degree and meeting other entrance requirements, e.g. GMAT score. Since you HAVE an undergraduate degree, it may be possible for you to go into a masters program rather than trying to get a second undergraduate degree. With a masters degree requiring 30-36 semester hours and a second undergraduate degree taking up to 120 hours (depending on if you can transfer credits), a masters degree is going to be a much better choice for someone in your situation.

    The masters degree does not even have to be in the same field as your undergraduate degree. My BS is in mathematics and I went straight into an MBA program, I just had to take a few make up courses. Almost no masters degree absolutely requires an undergraduate degree in the same field. When it’s different, they just assign you some make up courses.

    Also, masters courses tend to cost just a little more than undergraduate courses so getting a masters degree will be much cheaper for you than a second UG degree.

    I was a department chair at a mid-sized state university so I speak from experience here.

    1. fposte*

      Would your school accept a bachelor’s from a nationally accredited and non-accredited schools? Our grad admissions won’t even allow for national accreditation, let alone schools whose accreditation is no longer valid. What would you do about the recommendations from such a school?

      1. Bad Candidate*

        My brother was able to get into a grad program with his for-profit degree from a no longer accredited school. It was at a state school, but not at the main campus.

      2. Professor Ronny*

        We would accept any undergraduate degree for any regionally accredited school. The name was not mentioned by the OP but almost all of the for profit schools have regional accreditation since otherwise they could not get federal financial aid like Pell grants.

        1. Natalie*

          National accreditation is not in-and-of-itself a bar to federal aid eligibility. A number of national accreditation bodies have been recognized by the DOE.

    2. MuseumChick*

      This is a really good point. And many Master’s programs offer various forms of funding. I was lucky when I was getting mine. I landed a GA position that came with a full tuition waiver! Mind you, on top of my full-time graduate course work I was working 20 – 30 hours a week in my GA roll so it was hard, not fun most of the time, and I cried more than once but I left school with no debt.

    3. De Minimis*

      I had a humanities undergrad and got a master’s in accounting. Only had to take maybe an extra semester of pre-requisite courses.

      Usually better to go for a graduate degree instead of a second bachelor’s. Many times you will have problems getting financial aid or will get the last priority as far as course admission–and that’s assuming a school is even accepting students seeking 2nd bachelor’s degrees [many will not if there’s a lot of enrollment and competition for courses.]

  46. Stacey*

    OP, being in debt is no fun! One suggestion I would make, is to look at at online nonprofit university to get a further degree when you decide to. I work for one. We are accredited and competency based. We’re actually reaching out to former students of ITT Tech, for example, to help them further their education and get an actual degree. It’s a great university. I love working here. It’s all online and most of our students are already working, so they fit the courses into their schedule. It’s a flat rate for each semester and you’ll be assigned a mentor. Just a suggestion if you do want to get a degree and use your knowledge.

    1. Bad Candidate*

      I’ve been looking at the website and I really wish I had gone there instead of my school!

    2. periwinkle*

      I was going to post this suggestion! WGU is an excellent and credible option. They will accept credits from nationally-accredited schools as well as regionally-accredited ones. I’ve been trying to convince my husband to earn a BSIT through WGU; even though he’s a senior-level IT guy, some companies still insist on checking off that degree box so it wouldn’t hurt to have it.

    3. Gadfly*

      One of my fears (as I am graduating from WGU this summer with my second bachelors) is that people are going to lump all of the online schools in with the alternative ones and I’ll find it to be useless…

      I do like WGU though, with the caveat that it really does matter who your mentor is. If you get one who is not a good fit for you it can be hard. If you need the cohorts and that push of interaction to get through classes, it can be slow going. And I am furious at how bad the materials are for my current class (Project Management–there is no way the content was proofread, and after you fix the errors you are still left with poor organization of the material) but I have had that in on campus classes as well.

      I’ve had a series of things happen this last year (moving, health issues–mine and family, etc) that I was able to work around through WGU which I would not have been able to do so in a traditional university or in something that was just standard classes moved online. But you have to click well with the style of teaching and I do know people who it just did not work for.

  47. Den*

    Uuuuuuugh, this hits me real hard. I too am a victim of a for-profit school and got some major debt… and went to another for-profit school because I was interested . I only learned about the for-profit term, the poor reputation and the stigma of it all AFTER the second one. I didn’t know anything about these CUNY and SUNY Schools since my parents know nothing about them, never going to college themselves and had no help in my schools. Had major classroom anxiety from being bullied for 8 years then outcasted on my small high-school so I took an online one that sounded interesting to get away from people at the time.

    At least I got my first (and current) full fledged job by being hired from the second school I went to, but always been self-conscious personally talking about it because of all the stigma these types of school get. I didn’t mind at first because I wanted any work, and liked the occasional slow paced nature and personal perks from the gig, but as the years pass, I felt I screwed myself in the long run. This is my primary job, and that’s where a lot of my skills and experience stems from. The only other experience is voluntary temp work from ages ago or helping out my dad who manages a Café.

    The combination of my school choices, limited work experience, depression, guilt, low confidence/self-esteem/inferiority, and having absolutely no idea what to do in the future strongly feels like I failed for like and everything I did is all wrong, and is always wrong. I’m nearing 30 now, and felt I dug a hole too deep, yet having a hard time making myself climb back up. Reading these letters, including the linked one and some of the responses, adds a lot of fuel to my insecurities, but that is the reality of it. Those were the choices I made and I pay the price.


    1. Troutwaxer*

      IF you’re a high-school kid read Den’s letter with care, then go talk to your high-school counselor about your college options. Getting stuck like this is exactly what happens when you don’t know how to navigate the higher-education issues.

    2. Emmie*

      You didn’t do anything wrong. This is a really common thing. I often think that I could have ended up at a for-profit, or an unaccredited university because I knew nothing about it.

    3. Artemesia*

      I didn’t change horses in my late 20s and go to med school because I was ‘so old’ and it was ‘too late’ and now that I am many decades later retired, I look back and ask myself ‘what was I thinking?’ At nearly 30 you can re-invent yourself and have a whole new life. See if you can get some help thinking about the options you might have given what you already have done and can do; there might be someway to level up with something short of a new degree. I know a couple of people who did tech boot camps and rebooted their careers — one went from working in kitchens to doing tech work for a big corporation at much better hours, pay and benefits. This might not suit you but I’ll bet there is some strategy that will move you forward. Almost 30 means a whole life ahead of you, try to figure out what path will make it more what you dreamed of.

    4. Pommette*

      I don’t want to minimize your difficulties, but:
      1- You didn’t do anything wrong. You made the choices you made on the basis of the information that was available to you at the time, and of the pressures you were experiencing at the time. Many smart and talented people made the exact same choices, for similar reasons; enough people to make lots of predatory for-profit colleges profitable.
      2- It’s not too late to change your path. Nearing 30 is young, even though it doesn’t feel like it.
      (Good luck)

    5. Rena*

      I got a degree in history and graduated straight into the recession with no job plan and 60k in student loan debt from living full time at a state school. I worked for 6 years at Walmart and then Whole Foods just trying to keep the ground under me financially, watching my loans grow with interest even as I made my payments.

      At 26 I decided to go back to school because there was no future ahead of me. After a lot of research, I found a field that I both liked and that would hire straight out of undergrad. I worked full time for 2 years while paying for community college out of my pocket, and then transferred to a good state university for 2 more years. I’m now finishing up my degree in Geology and managed to get a job lined up after graduation. I’ll be 30 when I graduate. There are plenty of “traditional” college kids in my classes, but there are also a lot of people my age or older. Actually, I’m pretty much the youngest of my school friends by a good 10 years. It’s never too late, it just takes a plan and a lot of determination.

      I’m so excited to start building a career I care about and getting out from under that mountain of debt. I try really hard not to kick myself about my past choices, though of course I wish I’d found this path 8 years ago.

    6. Gadfly*

      The for profits often filled a niche the traditional schools don’t serve very well. It really is too bad that many of them were awful. But until very recently you couldn’t go to night school practically anywhere but a private university. Working professionals? Forget about it. Online? Laughable. My husband went to one for his RN degree because he could get one that way–it was a maybe and a multi-year wait at more traditional colleges and universities.

      Doing everything right won’t save you. My first Bachelors was in Philosophy because it was highly recommended for pre-law. And life happened. My parents got divorced, my Dad got very sick, Mom/my siblings/I were in a horrible car accident and Mom nearly died, etc, etc. I didn’t go to law school. My degree hasn’t been that useful, directly. My husband worked for a company for over 20 years and then in his early 40’s they outsourced his odd little niche of technical writing and he couldn’t find anything similar so became an RN (and then, ironically, was hired elsewhere for technical writing and contracts for his old employer and can’t work as a nurse until he takes another class where we moved to in CA because they insist on a microbiology class being titled a particular way even though he is currently licensed in 30 other states. )

      You have time to change your path and find new things and will probably have to do so a few times over the next 50+ years you likely have.

    7. Natalie*

      Hey, I just wanted to chime in and agree with the others that it’s not remotely too late. If you’re like me, 30 felt like I might as well be dead until I was on the other side of it. But it’s not. You’re barely done. :)

      I graduated right as the housing market had just collapsed and taken the job market down with it. I was alternately thrilled to have a decently paying job as a receptionist and crippled with depression over the idea that I was going to be stuck with that as a career. 4ish years in I stumbled into a different aspect of that particular office and decided I wanted to be an accountant. It took me another 3 years to actually enroll in an educational program so I could move forward. I started college again at 30, at a traditional undergraduate campus where most of my classmates are below legal drinking age.

      But it’s really okay. It’s hard, and it takes longer than I have wanted at times. But I really enjoy my work now and I finally have a goal and some direction, which is very satisfying. I’m going to turn 40 in some years so matter what I spend the time doing, so why not some education?

      1. Den*

        Thank you very much guys. Been wanting to ramble about that and some other work related anxieties on the Friday thread, but never got the nerve to. At the moment, I don’t want to risk going to school, even with cheaper options partly to not add more expenses, and I get very flakey on interests if something does not grab me in the long run. Like with the second school, I got strongly curious on programming, and while I completed the courses, got good grades and all, it did not maintain my interest and did not practice. I like things a lot more simple and straightforward, which is what I do at the current job teaching basic to moderate Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint to adult students, which I feel is a niche skill. Useful for office work, but somewhat limited on taking it to other directions.

        But you never know, could change my mind about the school idea, even in months. At the very least, maybe take some singular classes on subjects of interests. Again, much appreciated on all the comments, and at least have some ideas. :)

  48. Catnip Melba Toast*

    I suggest focusing on creating a body of work that you can showcase to potential employers. If you can demonstrate competency through projects you have done, it can go a long way to making up for the lack of degree (assuming you do decide to take it off your resume). Already got some work to showcase? Create a blog, or WordPress account where you can then connect those pages to a LinkedIn profile. Then network like crazy.

  49. Anon for this*

    I know some agencies in the gov’t give credit for U of Phoenix degrees. My husband went to the law enforcement academy with someone that had a degree from there. Their schools were all listed on their academy graduation pamphlets and a degree was required to have the job.

  50. Steve*

    Consider getting a post baccelaruate certificate from a noteworthy univserity. I completed one from NYU in marketing and it cost about 3k and looks great on a resume. It was a year of part time classes at night, and NYU has online classes. I don’t know is there is something like that for your area of interest, but hopefully it can help you get to where you want to go.

  51. Bad Candidate*

    I also wanted to add that my brother went to a for profit school. It’s not one that’s closed, but it has since lost accreditation. He was still able to get a job with a very big tech company. He may be the exception rather than the rule, but there is hope that things could work out.

    1. fposte*

      This is really useful, I think. Was it still accredited when your brother applied, and did he include it on his resume? And was it for a job with a bachelor’s as minimum qualification?

      1. Bad Candidate*

        The school was accredited when he started attending and then lost it at some point, I think before he graduated. And actually I just Googled it and it looks like the school has since closed. It was on his resume, and the job did require a BS at a minimum. He’s been there several years so at this point it likely wouldn’t matter, the company he works at is impressive enough that he likely could get a job even if he didn’t have a degree, but he really lucked out in that regard.

        1. Emmie*

          If a school lost its accreditation during his attendance, the school likely remained accredited until the teach-out was completed. This can happen through court appeal, through a settlement, or through the accreditor allowing a teach-out period.

  52. Laura*

    I’d also suggest other ways of getting the kind of experience the LW is not getting at work, for instance by volunteering at a nonprofit, where her skills could be useful. This would also help the LW build relationships. And are there any conferences or professional associations that they could join? That’s another way to get in front of the right people.

  53. Alexandra*

    One very specific idea I have would be to try to find work at a major university. Generally, there is work available there that is entry-level at the high school level, they tend to have fairly good benefits, and often have a good tuition assistance program, which can be used to get a second degree paid for while also working. You might need to get some connections to get your foot in the door, but if you can swing it, it could be a really good thing. My university job was a godsend in jumpstarting my professional career when I hadn’t made all the right choices with my education/previous employment.

  54. AnonAnon294*

    I realize this might not be an option but I just wanted to throw out Harvard Extension School as an option. They offer BA programs and some programs can be completed entirely online. I also think they’re much cheaper then some other programs

    Just a disclaimer: I used to work at Harvard and I took courses at the extension school.

  55. Tertia*

    OP, I am so sorry that this has happened to you. I realize that you didn’t ask for advice on if/how to go back to school, but I wanted to expand on what others have said in the hope that it will be useful in the future.

    Look into whether any accredited school will accept any of your credits, and *do this even if you’ve unsuccessfully tried in the past.* This year my university started a task force to “study” use of transfer classes from for-profit schools; I don’t know exactly how it’ll end, but I’m pretty sure that next year we’ll be accepting transfer credits that we don’t currently take.

    As other posters have said, you can get a degree as a part-time student. It sucks that you’re in that position, but it can be done.

    Investigate whether there are any ways in which college might give you access to perks that lower your overall cost of living. For example, buying into a flat-fee meal plan (we have one targeted toward part-time commuter students) might save you money if you’re disciplined about using it: as I understand it, meal plans are profitable because most students dine out/order in enough that they don’t use all the meals they’ve paid for. Being a student might give you access to a less expensive health insurance plan, or to a public-transit pass that would let you do without a car.

    As kind of a side point: If a school will give credit for work experience, make sure that you fully understand exactly how your credits can be used. At my school, “Business” (names changed to protect anonymity) is the only major that will apply life experience credits to the major requirements. If you switch to “Economics,” the life-experience credits won’t help you. That information is never hidden from students, but students don’t always know what questions to ask.

    I really like Professor Ronny’s idea about moving straight into a graduate program, but wouldn’t someone with a master’s degree still typically put their undergrad education on their resume?

    1. Tertia*

      Addendum: I meant to say that other universities are probably also reassessing what they do with for-profit credits, not just us.

  56. Mokey*

    OP I am so angry on your behalf. You put in time and a whole lot of money but the thing that stands out to people is that you made a bad choice. I think all the recommendations that you go to yet another school are unreasonable. Since you stated that you aren’t making much above minimum wage – can you maybe find some kind of apprenticeship? Or get into another field entirely. Basically you bought into a system that screwed you over. And will continue to punish you. It might make sense to do something different.

    I went to many different schools over many years and racked up some debt as well. Despite all of that work and not getting a degree I’ve been able to get corporate/office type jobs. I don’t make a ton of money but I have been able to support myself and live a good life. A lot of people don’t have a degree and a degree isn’t everything. You might have to re-adjust your goals though. Best of luck to you.

    Oh and I’m 36 and recently got a full time job that started as a temp position. I was out of work for almost 2 years and didn’t have everything that the position required. I just had to be open to different types of opportunities that hadn’t previously occurred to me.

  57. FirstTimeCaller*

    I’m one of those “horrible people” who “swindled” and I have to stick up for myself. The for-profit school I worked for was regionally accredited and offered degrees in the commercial arts. I personally went to a fine arts college which cost more than the for-profit school I represented. MOST grads have to start at the entry level position, whether your degree was in English, psychology, etc. and don’t end up in their degree field. Ganging up on for-profit schools is easy to do. To lump all for-profit schools, and the people who work there, as “horrible people” is wrong. We have no clue what kind of work ethic, ability, or criminal background this LW might have. Blaming it on the school and the degree is easy and totally shifts potential “blame” away from the student.

    1. Prismatic Professional*

      Here we give LW the benefit of the doubt and there is no reason . This comment doesn’t really apply to this letter since the LW clearly stated her school was shut down.

    2. I'm the OP (I'm late, but I'm here! lol)*

      I’d like to understand what the blame I’m supposed to carry is? Back then, I thought I was doing everything right, albeit I was naive. My school was shut down last year because of their practices (so you can easily figure out which institution this was – it made national news) I was aggressively marketed to by the school when I was young and looking to make a change in my life and had no real support system to guide me.

      The “blame” I will accept is I didn’t do better research although I really didn’t really know how. I was told by the counselor all these great things, and that they were accredited (I didn’t understand the difference between regional and national and what it meant) and that they would help me with finding a job in my field (they never did) and how I didn’t have to worry about the financial aid or anything because it would all be taken care of (I naively didn’t know how much it was all totaling up to until the end of things, because they did all the paperwork and would have you come in to sign things – which I’ve since learned is atypical and part of how they maintained their shady practices)

      And to answer your question – I’ve always maintained employment of some kind since I was a teenager, the reason I chose to go to school was because I wanted the chance to obtain BETTER employment and establish a real career. I was lied to. I have no criminal record. I mentioned in my letter that I always receive glowing reviews from my employers but I am unfortunately stuck in positions that have no room for growth and that are only loosely related to what i went to school for and I feel STUCK.

      1. FirstTimeCaller*

        OP, I apologize. My reply was more in response to AAM calling those who work(ed) at for-profit colleges swindlers and horrible people. Me and my fellow coworkers had good intentions of placing passionate artists who couldn’t find a traditional college that would accept them (sometimes that meant low high school GPA, interests in non-traditional school subjects, didn’t excel in traditional learning environments,, etc.) I am not calling you a criminal, nor am I insinuating you’re a bad person. I just had to say something on behalf of my coworkers who do work at for-profit colleges. We are decent people who want to do our best and help our students reach their goals. Really. Again, I’m sorry if my reply/comment was off topic but I was really just responding to being called a charlatan and a horrible person in the response to your question.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I didn’t call you that. I called the people who sold the OP her degree that. Surely you can’t disagree with that, given her current situation.

  58. Mel*

    I graduated with a BA from a for-profit school as well (although at least it was regionally accredited). I didn’t care too much about where the BA was from cause I was planning on my master’s, but never got there, and now I’ve decided I don’t even want to pursue this field anymore. I wouldn’t bother putting it on my resume, except some of the jobs I apply to have a blanket “Bachelor’s degree required/preferred,” so I need to list it to qualify. Now, I attended a tech school for a few years before this and transferred my credits over to the for-profit school. Would it make me look better if I added the tech school “liberal arts transfer” program on my resume as well so employers can see I put in a few years in a brick-and-mortar school?

  59. Prismatic Professional*

    You might also check your local workforce commission office. Depending on your income and family size, you might qualify for WIOA (Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act) and they can pay for some training/degrees (usually at local community colleges or even some universities) on the Federal Target Occupations List (mostly healthcare, IT, and trades this year). Some workforce areas have other programs as well. This is not a loan program, but a grant. The “payback” is you getting a job and paying taxes. :-)

  60. I'm the OP (I'm late, but I'm here! lol)*

    I just want to thank you Alison and everyone for chiming in here, and for offering advice and suggestions and even links to some things which I plan to check into more. I didn’t think my letter would be responded to (or at least so quickly) and was away for a couple days (working doubles!) and so I wasn’t able to participate in the discussion while it was happening.
    I am going to try to put in several more months at my current employer to round out the time I’ve been here before I consider looking for a new opportunity and will try taking the school off my resume and see what kind of traction I get. I have a long work history, just in roles that people stay in doing the same thing for years and years and that don’t necessarily require a degree (which is the whole reason I thought going to school and getting a degree would change things for the better for me) or change much.
    I thought with this latest role I would be able to move up, but my “degree” isn’t compatible with that. I’m still dealing with feelings of regret and resentment from finally coming to terms with what I got myself into but I do plan to try really hard to find satisfaction with my work down the line.

    I will be sure to update down the line with what I end up doing.

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