how can I explain why I went to a for-profit school?

A reader writes:

I graduated from DeVry in the late 80’s. I earned a four-year B.S. there. I was heavily recruited (high test scores) by many colleges and ultimately it came down to a UC and DeVry. DeVry was on a trimester system, so I would graduate in three years vs. four years, and I needed to help my family financially. So I went to DeVry right after high school. (Oh how I wish I had a decent high school counselor who would have steered me to the UC!)) So going to DeVry had nothing to do with not being smart enough to go to other schools. I was first generation college student so my family didn’t know any better to advise me differently.

I know the prejudice against for-profit schools. In fact, as a hiring manager, resumes with a for-profit had a count against them. I am fortunate that I don’t think my alma mater has hurt me too much. I was able to get a job right after graduation through networking and the rest is history. I’ve worked hard at every opportunity and as a result I have an enjoyable, well-paying career spanning the last few decades.

But when it comes up, especially in social situations, I always feel I have to defend that I graduated from DeVry. I always find myself saying “I could have gone to UCxx”. I don’t want to be judged by the fact as a 17-year-old I made the wrong choice. (I know, I know, hypocritical of me). But I also think it’s valuable to show that success can come from going to these types of schools. Or is it really not and I’m just trying to make myself feel better? Do you have any advice on how to handle this situation?

DeVry actually used to have a fine reputation for vocational training (including at the time you attended). Unfortunately, though, it’s been tainted by the same problems as with other for-profit schools — in DeVry’s case specifically, deceptive recruiting tactics, filing false data with the government on students’ outcomes, charging vastly more than nonprofit colleges while spending significantly less per student, and shady student loan practices (and it’s faced numerous state and federal investigations on a bunch of these). So yes, its reputation has suffered significantly from when you attended.

Regardless, though, I don’t think it’s your job to change the public image of for-profit schools, and you’ll be fighting an uphill battle if you try to do that. But I do think you can give an answer that puts the choice in context, and highlights the fact that DeVry of the 80s is different than DeVry of today. You could say something like, “I was a first-generation college student and didn’t have much guidance about picking a school. I ended up at DeVry because they had an accelerated program and I needed to help my family financially. I know, though, that they’ve suffered from the same problems as other for-profit schools in more recent years.”

That answers the question while explaining why you chose the school, flags that things weren’t quite the same then, and shows that you’re not naive about the problems with the school now. (It also might play a useful role in speaking firsthand about how hard these decisions can be for teenagers without a lot of family guidance.)

Beyond that, you don’t have to defend your decision. You have a successful, multi-decade career that speaks for itself, and people talking to you will see that.

{ 442 comments… read them below }

  1. buffty*

    You could also say something like, “It’s too bad DeVry isn’t the good alternative to a traditional college that it used to be.” You may feel less awkward with this, if you’re just discussing college in passing and need a quick comment that acknowledges that their reputation has rightly suffered but the situation was different when you attended.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I like this approach. The best response I think is exactly what Alison said: it was better regarded at the time you went there.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Agreed. While I didn’t know anything about its history prior to this post, the angling of ‘It used to be perfectly good for what it did, but in the last few years it’s gone down the toilet’ is really unobjectionable, to the point where I honestly wouldn’t think twice about it if I heard that in casual conversation about alma maters.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I like this!! It really does point out that things change, and also that one shouldn’t make too many assumptions.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes. Self-deprecating laugh, something like “Back then it was a good vocational school, and I could graduate quickly and help my family.” One line, then move on.

      Don’t bring up that you got admitted to a UC–or MIT, or Julliard–decades ago.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        I do think it’s OK to say “I was deciding between DeVry and UC, and made my decision based on the needs of my family”. But yes, “I could have gone to UCxx” sounds defensive now.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Very much agreed. I made a similar (but not as significant) choice as a teen, and it was financially driven, too. I don’t tell people about my admission to the other school, in part because it sounds defensive/insecure, but in great part because it truly doesn’t matter. :)

    5. Anion*

      Yes. My brother almost went to DeVry after high school in the 80s, and at that time it was a totally legitimate trade school with a perfectly fine reputation. I was actually shocked to see it’s now considered not-so-great, because back then it wasn’t uncommon for people in our area to attend and go on to be quite successful in whatever trade they chose.

      (My bro ended up going in a different direction and getting his Pharm.D. years later, but at the time he was considering being a mechanic.)

  2. ZSD*

    How well-known is DeVry? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it, and I used to live in California. If you mentioned to me that you’d gone to DeVry and didn’t give any further information, I’d just assume it was a small liberal arts college I was unfamiliar with.
    So for some people, you might not need to give an explanation at all.
    (But maybe I’m unusual in not having the name ring a bell.)

    1. Temperance*

      I think you’re unusual. They used to advertise heavily on TV, and their problems were widely publicized.

      1. DataQueen*

        I call those schools “Jerry Springer Colleges” because they advertise so heavily during daytime talkshows. I can still hear the jingle for “Education Connection” in my head, haunting me. For me, it’s not an automatic pass on your resume if the work experience looks good – but I’m going to want an good explanation like the ones Allison suggests, and want for you to be conscious of the negative connotation of that degree (if you act like the OP from the first UoP post, no way am I hiring you).

        p.s. I have been an audience member several times on Maury (they film right outside NYC), so no discrimination against people that watch those shows – I love a good paternity test or teen out of control!

        1. Temperance*

          That’s a good word for them! Can I admit that I’m jealous that you’ve gotten to see Maury? I watch all these crap shows, religiously. I got really into “The Test” for a while.

          1. DataQueen*

            Will do! It’s totally free and a hoot and a half. I’ll come back this weekend with full details :)

        2. Peggy*

          OMG THE EDUCATION CONNECTION RAP! I can hear it in my head (it’s as bad as Kars-4-Kids).

          Also sorry everyone, you’re now all singing K A R S KARS 4 KIDS and putting curses on an internet jerk named Peggy.

            1. Peggy*

              I was watching a lot of Mad Men when I started using that name here. (I am married to another woman so occasionally I’ll refer to my wife as Joan. Which would’ve been an interesting plot twist in Mad Men!) :)

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Yeah. . .I spent a lot of time home by myself watching TV as a kid in the late ’80s. DeVry, ITT Technical Institute, and Sally Struthers promoting the International Correspondence Schools are all heavily imprinted on my brain. Maybe younger people don’t see these now because kids watch the Disney channel instead of Beverly Hillbillies reruns on TBS.

        1. Temperance*

          You might be right. To be totally candid, I watch a LOT of trash TV (Destination America, Investigation Discovery, etc.), and that’s where I see these commercials now. It’s mostly Education and those adverts for self-publishing books.

          I also totally forgot about those Correspondence Schools until now! LOL. Ah, memories.

          1. strawberries and raspberries*

            Is Cash 4 Gold still a thing? I feel like I saw those commercials all the time when I was working from home and using daytime TV as background noise.

              1. Snark*

                And somewhere, sometime, someone was like, “The highest and best purpose to which I can dedicate my life today is comprehensively revising and adding to the Cash 4 Gold Wikipedia article.”

                1. Frank Doyle*

                  Nah, it was probably like “I really do not want to finish these TPS reports today, let me go down a Wikipedia-editing rabbithole instead.”

        2. Peggy*

          My grandparents babysat me when I was a kid, every day when I was little then on sick days and school holidays and some afternoons after school when I was elementary aged). This was in the early 1980s – they were in their late 50s at the time but they lived like they were 100. (Funny to think about – my grandfather was 55 when I was born and retired the same year, and just sat in a chair watching tv for the next 39 years. He’s in a nursing home now, but still sitting in a chair watching daytime TV. My own parents are in their late 60s now and they’re going to concerts, traveling, babysitting, acting young, enjoying life.) I can still remember all of these commercials – my grandparents had things like the 700 club or soap operas on during the day in the background, small claims court shows, reruns of Laverne and Shirley, etc. All of those daytime shows had these types of commercials. I remember pondering the lists of career options during those commercials for professional certifications as though they were my only options – like, I can be a medical transcriptionist, a court stenographer, a private detective, how am I going to know which one to pick when it’s time to grow up and get a job?

          I can still remember the personal injury lawyer commercials (JIM SOKOLOV!) and Devry and ITT tech school commercials, and all of the made for tv mail order products you could get with 3 low payments and if you act now, you get a free one and you just have to pay shipping and handling, etc. :) I don’t watch ANY daytime TV now (if I’m working at home or sick, I watch netflix or my DVR!) but occasionally I’ll be in a doc office or car service waiting room and I’ll hear a court tv show with personal injury law commercials in the background and I’m amazed they’re the same as they were 40 years ago. I always wondered who sat at home and watched them (um, people like my grandparents I guess?), and I’d feel bummed for people who worked night shifts and missed out on good night time tv like Growing Pains and had to watch crappy daytime tv, haha!

        3. YoungTeach*

          I saw a lot of these ads, DeVry, ITT Tech, etc in my teens and well into college… But I also spent my teen and college years watching TNT criminal justice shows, Ghost Whisperer, and Charmed with my mom.
          For reference, I only just turned 25. So I would think these things are relatively well known but maybe it is just the channels I frequent…

        4. TardyTardis*

          My daughter once did a comedy sketch about Hooked On Phonics–and how the Moonies freed her from the Hooked On Phonic’s Cruel Cult. She did the buggy eyes really well in it.

    2. SignalLost*

      I still see ads for it (I’m actively considering going back to school and used to work in education, so my results may be different than others) on Facebook and through AdWords, and there’s one fairly close to me.

    3. Aleta*

      I’ve never heard of it either, but I also have to remind myself that for-profit means something specific in this context instead of just any private school (I went to a reasonably prestigious private university, and I wouldn’t consider them non-profit at all!).

      1. TallTeapot*

        There is a huge difference between a private college/university and a for-profit. For-profits are companies that are owned and/or have shareholders, who demand a return on their investment. In contrast, a private non-profit isn’t paying out shareholder dividends and is not beholden to people who expect to make money (granted, donors may expect things, including prestige, a voice and a tax write-off). A for-profit does and is beholden to its shareholders.

        1. Aleta*

          Huh, I never actually thought about it. I always just assumed they were the same functionally and the ones that are legit correctly take the view that a good reputation builds profits, and so maintains stuff like academic standards, making sure the “customers” (students) are happy, etc etc. Like, even if there aren’t literal shareholders or an owner, the upper echelon DEFINITELY had very inflated salaries that they inflated when they could. When the university profited, they profited with actual money. But I recognize that not everyone categorizes stuff like that.

          1. Natalie*

            In the case of for-profit colleges, the students aren’t exactly their customers because many of them are not paying the bill, or don’t pay it directly. The company gets paid by federal student aid funds (grants and loans), GI Bill education grants, and so forth. In some of the more scandalous cases, they are literally just keeping people enrolled until their aid money runs out. And if that student decides to go to a real school in 20 years, they find that they’ve used up their lifetime allotment of federal aid.

            1. fposte*

              Current completion rate at DeVry is 18%, btw. So that’s a lot of people with loans for degrees they didn’t even get.

          2. hermit crab*

            Maybe think of it this way – there are lots of non-profits that aren’t schools, and they still have to remain solvent, and some of them have high salaries for their executives, etc. Those are “private” organizations in the sense that they are not government entities, but they are definitely still non-profits.

          3. teclatrans*

            Nope. For-profit has a specific meaning — they exist only to make their shareholders rich. As TallTeapot mentioned, shareholders and profit are number one. Private colleges put all their money back into serving the college itself. I never thought of them as “nonprofit,” but I am pretty sure they actually are considered to be such by the IT’S?

    4. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      DeVry was one of the earliest for-profit schools, and it used to be pretty decent tbh; sort of a trade school, sort of a community college, that sort of thing. I remember their commercials from when I was a kid, and have never viewed them in the same light as other for-profit schools (the fact that they do the same bad things as them is actually news to me, right now).

      1. Frank Doyle*

        Same here! I also always assumed it was located in the NY/NJ/CT tri-state area, since there were commercials and, as you said, it seemed like the sort of place that only had one location. I had no idea they’re known nationwide.

      2. Freelance Accountant*

        Yes, I’m in Canada, and in the 80’s DeVry (and other for-profit schools) were not shady at all, and I personally know people who went to those schools and got jobs in their field on the strength of the training they received. A few people I know went to DeVry in the 80’s for IT-related programs. Computers were still pretty new in offices at that point, so having training on networks or Windows was a real plus to employers. I also have 2 friends who did the Legal Assistant 9-month program at the Toronto School of Business (another for-profit school that was really well know in Toronto then), and both got jobs as a result. Putting that school and training on their resume legitimately helped them.

        Now, unfortunately, these schools are super-scammy and should be avoided. But that wasn’t always the case.

    5. plynn*

      Devry used to be reasonably respectable alternative to non-profit education, particularly for computer training. In the late 80s/early 90s I would hear the name constantly, and they actually attracted a lot of good students that wanted job skills as fast as possible. Basically they used to what for-profit school now*pretend* to be – job market-targeted skills training on an accelerated timeline.

      1. teclatrans*

        Oh, yes, now that you mention it, the ads really emphasized computer training, which was an important thing for people to get trained on.

      1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

        I remember back in high school there was a college fair my class attended and my guidance counselor actually got into an argument with the rep from ITT tech at the fair. The guy was really pushy and trying to tell us that the school was better than all of the other colleges there. The guidance counselor made a comment that went along the lines of “all of the colleges here are known for their academics. Your school is known for the commercials. Tell me when you last saw an ad campaign on TV for Boston College.” It definitely made me take a sec to think “Hmmm, she’s right. I’ve NEVER seen a commercial for any of those other schools.”

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Hahaha weirdly, the only place i’ve seen regular colleges/universities advertise is pre-roll at movie theatres? Which was weird!

        2. AnotherAlison*

          My best high school career fair memories are of 1.) being aggressively recruited by DeVry, and 2.) those Northwestern recruiting bitches who looked down their nose at me. (I peaked in high school and thus had academic credentials to go anywhere, but I come from a blue collar family & town in general. I’m not sure why Northwestern even came to my high school.)

          The DeVry thing was weird, though, because they were calling me at home. I guess for-profits do have to be pushy. Them and the Army.

          1. fposte*

            Were you in the Bradley University penumbra? They were legendary in the amount of material they’d send out.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I don’t remember them. I think the University of Evansville took top honors on junk mail. Boston University may have been a close second. All that to end up going to a college 4 hrs away that gave me a lot of money. I didn’t finish my degree there, though.

          2. Anion*

            At my school’s college fair, I noticed one table that didn’t have a lot of attention being paid to it, and I thought the two African-American gentlemen standing at it looked sort of bored and lonely. So I went over and started asking them questions and chatting and flipping through their catalog/booklet thingy; they were both looking at me kind of strangely but I didn’t think anything of it, really.

            It wasn’t until I got home and showed the brochure to my dad that I discovered that Grambling University was(is) a historically Black college.

            (The brochure had a lot of African-Americans in the pictures, sure, but I really didn’t notice it to the extent that I would ask about it or anything. What did I care about that, you know?)

        3. The New Wanderer*

          College football (and possibly other televised college sports) will run ads/infomercials for one or both of the colleges featured in the games. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen state or private schools advertised, other than being inundated with brochures when I was a high school student in the college application stage.

    6. Chinook*

      We knew of Devry in rural Alberta in the ’80’s and it had a decent reputation at that time. Considering that his was before the internet (where I was) and most of us had family in the trades, it was the only option to NAIT and SAIT in the entire province at that time for technical training.

      1. Talvi*

        They were still around in Alberta circa the mid-2000s. I remember them coming to talk to my Math 31 class…

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think it’s pretty well known, but this may also be generational. DeVry used to be as ubiquitously advertised in the 80s/90s as the University of Phoenix is, today.

    8. teclatrans*

      I am from DeVry and grew up with their commercials, so I guess YMMV? (And I agree, it was a vocational college and a totally legitimate option.)

    9. AC*

      How old are you and were you allowed to watch TV as a kid? I’m early 30s, and those DeVry ads were all over TV in the 90s.

    10. Jam Today*

      Probably depends on how old you are. I’m 44 and remember lots of ads for it on TV probably through my teens, but not much after and nothing in the last decade or maybe more.

  3. V as in Victory*

    Any of that sounds unnecessarily defensive to me. How about “it’s been decades and it’s not at all important in my context as a person.”

    But I picked my uni based on geographic distance from parents and I’m happy to tell people that.

    1. Susanne*

      See, THAT sounds weirdly defensive to me while Alison’s suggested wording sounds matter-of-fact and reasonable.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah because you’re anticipating in your response that they are going to react negatively and you’re trying to get ahead of it. You’re better of just being straightforward and communicating with your tone and body language that this isn’t a big deal to you, you’re successful, this is a nothingburger.

      2. K.*

        Totally agree. If I asked someone where they went to school and they responded that way, I’d think they were hiding something. And also that they were kind of a jerk, TBH.

    2. SignalLost*

      Agreeing with previous commenters – THAT sounds defensive. I think it does need to be addressed, if only for the OP’s peace of mind, and Alison’s script is good, as is buffty’s.

    3. DataQueen*

      I think sometimes, we use the “no is a complete sentence” mentality because we’re building the argument in our heads before it even happens, when usually, a smile and a cheerful short explanation does the trick.

    4. Boo Berry*

      I agree that it seems to undermine their credibility, kind of a Lady Doth Protest Too Much Syndrome.

      It’s unfortunate because it’s clear you value your education and it seems to currently be tied in with your self value, but I would encourage you to instead focus on your decades of successful work history rather than where you found yourself for three years 30 years ago.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Oh, that sounds WAY more defensive to me. I think a confident, no-drama/nonsense “I went to DeVry,” is adequate. But saying “it’s been decades” and isn’t “important in my context as a person” sounds like a convoluted way of rejecting the other person before they reject you.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        I agree. Alison’s script is good for a professional context (like a job interview or networking meeting), but in a social setting, confidently saying “I went to DeVry” with no qualifiers is your best bet. The person is probably just making polite conversation.

        Also, although I know the name DeVry from the old commercials, there are so many colleges I’ve never heard of that I wouldn’t even automatically assume it’s the same one. (This has happened to me – I said I went to College X and the person thought it was a different, much more prestigious school with a similar name. Didn’t matter at all because it was just small talk, so I laughed and corrected him, but it happens!)

  4. Caboodle*

    Seconding what Alison says. For-profit schools are a bit of a hot button issue at the moment, but as long as you have solid experience behind you, you’ll be fine.

    A quick story about my mom. A few years ago during the recession, she found herself without a job and struggling to compete in a market where everyone was looking for someone with a masters degree. Because she lives in an area where ATS’s are used a lot, she enrolled in University of Phoenix’s MBA program mostly so she could put the words “masters” and “business” on her resume to get her through the initial screeners (she was totally honest on her resume that her MBA was in progress). The strategy worked. She now makes a very decent living performing contract work. And not a single employer cares that Uni of Phoenix is on her resume.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah and the real objection to for profit schools is that they DON’T get students what they promise, which is good paying jobs. They just get the students into debt and they end up with worthless degrees that they may have to drop from their resumes entirely if the institution is so disrespected. That’s not OP’s situation at all! In your case, you *did* end up getting a good job and a good career, so it’s a moot point.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      University of Phoenix’s MBA program is actually really well-regarded! There are lots of people who throw it in the same category as other for-profits and programs, but I’m given to understand that U of P MBA is a rigorous program and have no problem hiring people with that credential.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Hmm, I’m not sure if that’s the case or not TBH. There’s a link in the “related articles” that kind of says even a good program at a crappy school is usually given a bit of an – unfair – side-eye.

        1. SignalLost*

          I’ve definitely had to fight this as a community college teacher. I guarantee you, for a student to pass my class, they had to do the work, and demonstrate they could do it. I’ve had very, very good students who needed a boost into the professional world of IT, and I’ve had students who were marking time. It infuriates me that so many of my really good students have had to work so hard to get taken seriously by employers, but my state’s Worker Retraining program doesn’t exactly cover a four-year BS in Computer Science. (Several of my students have gotten jobs at Microsoft and Facebook; others have stopped looking in IT entirely, despite being excellent at it.)

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Well to be clear, if you are a community college that doesn’t at all put you in the same boat as a for profit college, in my mind!

          2. PharmD*

            It really annoys me to hear people talk down community college. I had a wonderful education at my local technical college and it basically got me into pharmacy school.

      2. kb*

        As with anything, it depends where you are and what you’re applying to. In an area that has a lot of MBA candidates from not-for-profit schools, it may put you at a disadvantage to them. But yes, there are definitely certain programs at for-profit schools that have great connections to the community and employers.

    3. Frank Doyle*

      What does ATS stand for? After the Signature, meaning that people impressed when other people have initials after their signature?

      1. Leatherwings*

        Applicant tracking system – people often misunderstand what they do but the generally accepted idea is that they “scan” your resume for key words before sending it on to a human. That’s why people (unnecessarily) freak out about key words on their resumes

      2. fposte*

        Applicant Tracking System–automated application platforms that may filter out people based on boxes literally or figuratively not checked.

      3. cleo*

        ATS = Applicant Tracking System – computer systems that evaluate job applicants by looking for key words, etc.

    4. Elemeno P.*

      My director also has a MBA from there. He has an INCREDIBLE amount of experience and got it to check a box so he could be an adjunct professor in addition to his regular job. The experience is super impressive and nobody even asks about the degree!

      1. SignalLost*

        I’m glad to hear your director actually has the experience. I had the strange experience of having an ITT instructor in one of my classes. It always annoying, because based on another instructor’s experience with several of them, they were just going to take our curricula and work and use that. In a hilarious turn of events, my department head got contracted to sort out a mess that an ITT instructor made working as a contractor claiming he had her credentials.

      2. Caboodle*

        Exactly. That’s basically my point, but perhaps not explained well. My mom also had an incredible amount of experience but got the masters to get her foot back in the door. Now that she’s in and reestablished, no one cares about the school (or the degree for that matter).

    5. BananaPants*

      It may be really dependent on industry and region. My Fortune 50 employer won’t give employees tuition assistance for University of Phoenix, Strayer, Capella, etc. because our higher ed experts have found that the quality of the education isn’t worth the cost. Basically, for-profits are a really lousy value in a day and age when so many not-for-profit institutions offer distance learning or night classes.

      When reviewing job applicants, we’ve been instructed to consider any degree from a for-profit school earned in the last 15 years to be invalid for purposes of meeting the educational requirements of the posting. It may sound harsh, but that’s the view of HR at a major corporation.

  5. Jean*

    Honestly, I don’t think you need to get into the personal circumstances, since Alison is right that DeVry used to be well regarded (I’m in my 30s and I remember when DeVry was a perfectly respectable choice). If anybody ever asks, I’d just say that at the time you were there, it was run on a much different model from what it became later on, and that your work history shows that you got a good education there.

    1. A Person.*

      Yes. A friend went to DeVry in that time period and went on to have a successful career. I’d say more people in our age group than not know that DeVry used to have a better reputation. Anyone who doesn’t, you could probably just briefly explain it was different back then.

      1. Rainy*

        I’m in my 4os and had a friend who did a four-year degree at DeVry riiiiight around the time things started going downhill (about 20, 25 years ago now), and in combination with some other factors that he couldn’t have predicted, it really tanked his career in that field. But up until that point, it honestly seemed like absolutely the right decision for him to make, because he was definitely being held back by the lack of a completed degree.

        Ten years later, a friend of my late husband’s wanted to do a degree quickly and went to DeVry, and it did not work out well for him at all. :/

    2. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

      I have a friend who attended a local uni that is highly prestigious now, but might’ve accepted your cat in the 70’s if it had tuition money. She’s afraid of getting tarnished with the “brilliant nerd” brush and often says, yes that’s where I went bc the community college was more selective than they were back then. These things ebb and flow I guess.

    3. Risha*

      I was hired at my first position out of college (as a systems developer) in ’98 alongside a large number of new graduates, including a few from DeVry. They were all extremely good at our job. I certainly don’t hold a DeVry degree against anyone.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        But to be fair, I might *now,* if the applicant was claiming this degree provided the credentials that it did not actually warrant.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          For me, I think it would depend on when the applicant received their degree. I’ve hired folks from DeVry, and they were excellent. If someone applied, now, I think I’d be a bit more nervous, but not because the degree is from DeVry or University of Phoenix or whatnot. I’d be nervous about whether the school had a predatory relationship with the applicant and whether the applicant received the same kind of rigorous training that DeVry used to provide (although those core competencies can be vetted through phone screening).

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Also, what it’s for. An office manager or salesperson? Yes, no problem. A nurse … hmm, maybe, depends on the program. I’d have to do more digging.

          2. Jesca*

            I think for me it would be along the lines of the fact that they didn’t check out the university/college first to check its reputation. If they earned their degree even as far back as 5 or 6 years ago from one of these places, i would not hold it against them. This is because a)its when the collapse of these schools really became public knowledge and 2) there really were not many other options then for adult distant learning! Now though you would not believe how many schools, even state ones, that have total online degree programs. Even typing in DeVry or UoP into google should be enough to deter someone taking their education seriously.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I think I’m a little odd because the people I’ve met who attended DeVry or UoP are disproportionately first-generation college students from low-income families. In their case, I blame a lack of guidance or knowledge of the higher education market instead of a failure to do their research.

              However, if that was not someone’s profile, I would probably wonder why they hadn’t done their due diligence.

          3. I_have_not_posted_in_years*

            I got a second degree from DeVry in the early 2000’s in IT, and I felt like I had for the most part very good instructors/professors (to be clear, there were a few that were obviously there to supplement their income and didn’t give 2 damns whether you learned anything or not). I certainly learned enough to perform an entry level programming or networking job.

            Having said that, there certainly is a negative reputation to overcome regarding that particular university, and I couldn’t do it; I’d swear to this day I had at least two interviews where I was brought in just to be mocked. Anyway, I gave up on IT because my ego/self esteem just couldn’t handle it; fortunately I had something to fall back on.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I have a friend who went to DeVry in the mid-80s. He’s an electrical engineer and is one of the more sought-after/successful in the, fairly narrow, field, he is in. As in, clients request him by name. He said it was a good school that helped him a lot, and sounded really glad that he’d gone there.

  6. Snark*

    What about something like, “I went to DeVry – this was back in the ’80s before their practices got scuzzy, but I still wish I’d gotten better advice.” I feel like the more you talk about this, the more your conversation partner will think it’s a Big Thing.

    1. Shadow*

      This response seems the best choice to me. Short, sweet, and to the point. It’s been a really long time, for the most part no one cares any more, so a long explanation just seems defensive.

    2. Snark*

      Or, “I went to DeVry. This was back in the 80s, when they were still a pretty good alternative to a traditional university, but I do wish I’d gotten better advice. It worked out okay for me, though!”

          1. Amber Rose*

            This meme makes traditional Japanese martial arts extremely awkward, for the record. I am constantly torn between amusement and horror.

          2. SL #2*

            I nearly spit coffee out on my keyboard but also had to put my head down on said keyboard for a second so I could stop laughing.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I like this a lot. It’s the perfect combination of self-confident and self-aware without implying shame or defensiveness.

      2. OP - DeVry Grad*

        Yes, I’d actually say it worked out great for me! And to be honest, as far as interviewing goes, DeVry has never come up.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Also known as the Eminem tactic. Say the negative thing about you yourself before your counterpart does.

  7. Professor Ronny*

    I don’t think your situation is all that different from tons of students who went to “better” schools but took majors that turned out not to be all that useful. My undergraduate degree is from a good school but it was in mathematics and I was never able to turn that into anything career wise. In fact, I continued to work a blue collar job until I finished my MBA.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d argue it’s not the same — the problem with having a for-profit college in your background is that it can make you look naive, or not rigorous about academic standards, or so forth. (When I’m hiring, I’d be embarrassed to pass along a resume with something like University of Phoenix on it, and that’s definitely not the case for unpopular majors from good schools.)

      1. Health Insurance Nerd*

        Ouch. So even if that resume reflected really solid experience and work background, because UoP was on it you’d be embarrassed to pass it on?!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          When I’m hiring for a place with rigorous standards, absolutely. I know that sucks for people who went there without realizing how it would be perceived. But if you check out the comment section of the post about University of Phoenix that’s linked in the “you may also like” section at that bottom of this post, you’ll get a very full discussion of why.

          1. Jesca*

            It definitely does depend on the employer and type of work. I think your every day person would not be too terribly affected by it as long as they had a solid work history. But I think it would be a bigger issue for really high profile jobs.

          2. Anononon*

            Just curious, though, but doesn’t this smack of a kind of discrimination and help perpetuate the idea that the people who attended those schools are less than? At what point do we choose not to participate in punishing the people who thought they were getting a good thing and instead focus our ire on the organizations that deserve it?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s not about being less than; I have a lot of sympathy for people who ended up being swindled by these schools and my ire is very much directed toward the schools. But the different academic rigor of one institution versus another is a legitimate thing to look at in hiring, and really hiring is all about discriminating among applicants on the basis of things like education (and work history and so forth).

              1. Jana*

                If an applicant has a resume and cover letter that you’d consider worthy of being moved to the interview stage, but a for-profit university is listed in the education section, would you then choose to pass on that person? I don’t personally know anyone who has attended a for-profit university and I’m interested to know just how much something like that sinks a candidate.

            2. Jana*

              Agreed. It’s true that for-profit universities have poor reputations for a reason. However, there are plenty of people who went to traditional and even prestigious universities who performed poorly, but still graduated.

              1. JamieS*

                Very true but when companies are making split second decisions on who to interview they have to weigh the odds and it’s more likely a UoP graduate will be less knowledgeable than someone who graduated from a more traditional school.

        2. Snark*

          If there were a LONG and solid work background with experience that really spoke for itself, and if I were comfortable personally vouching for the person’s strength as a candidate despite their educational record, I probably would pass it on….but if I just got someone’s resume and had the option to pass it along? Probably not.

        3. Jana*

          Yeah, quite harsh. I mean, supposedly job applicants are being judged based on their cover letters and full experience, not just the school(s) they attended. There are plenty of people who did poorly at good schools.

        4. The OG Hannah*

          I think it depends on where you work. I have worked for places where it wouldn’t be a problem and I have worked for places where it would be. My current boss, who is well regarded in our field, has told me he won’t hire from these schools. My current employer has higher standards than other places I have worked though. It depends on where you are working but employers that are more prestigious are more likely to have a problem with these schools.

          1. nonymous*

            I did my undergrad at a State University with a national reputation for statistics and still people were snooty about it being a State U – this was at my grad school which was a different State U in a different part of the country. My alma mater regularly was on par with Harvard in rankings, but people locally just weren’t familiar with it so lumped it with the lower-performing state schools.

        5. a1*

          I agree. I’m finding it hard to believe that 15+ years experience and being a top performer in every job would be negated by a UofP listing on a resume. I agree with the others that it seems overly harsh. And for the record, I didn’t go to UofP or any for-profit, but it still seems really weird to me.

          1. Grapey*

            15+ years of experience should speak for itself. I also do some interviews and fresh out of college grads only have their school projects to point to.

            1. Semi-regular*

              You mean, like as a rule? Someone who has a U of P degree can’t possibly have 15 years of experience that is relevant and valuable and be a top performer? What informs that opinions?

      2. Semi-regular*

        I mean, this is such a personalized and sort of elitist response, forgive me, but I think less of your advice over all having read this particular comment. Why on earth would you be embarrassed? Ouch is right, it’s very….unkind.

        1. Snark*

          If I passed along a resume with University of Phoenix on it, I’d feel the need to justify it. And if I got passed a resume for a candidate with that on their resume, I’d be kinda like, errr….you sure ’bout that? Its reputation is that shady.

          Alison can speak for herself, of course.

          1. Semi-regular*

            I fully understand the reputation of University of Phoenix and other for profit organizations. I still feel that that particular comment is overly personalized and unkind. Many of the people who were defrauded by these “schools” are in no position to obtain different degrees and were heavily recruited and manipulated into attending. I just find her comment shockingly insular.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              I’ve also heard it recommended that a good candidate would drop that degree from their resume and depend on their other strengths and experiences to make their case. In this example, someone left it on, believing that it really represented a strength in their application, which is concerning.

              1. Jana*

                I think it’s possible that someone would leave it on a resume not because they mistakenly believe it’s a strength, but because if they attended no other college/university, they may not feel they have a choice. If you want to apply for a job with a BA requirement, one might feel caught between a rock and a hard place.

                1. Teal Green*

                  In my case I don’t believe it’s a strength, but if I take UoP off my resume my only completed degree at another college is an AA. That doesn’t cut it on getting through an ATS that is going to reject everyone who can’t check the “has a BA” box.

                  Starting another degree isn’t an option for me for at least 3-5 years, so I have to work with what I have.

                2. Larval Doctor*

                  We had an applicant for a secretarial job that did not require a degree who had a UofP bachelors *in progress* on her CV. She was older than your traditional college age and not a first generation college student. It came off as showing extremely poor judgement and was a major reason (although not the only reason) that we went with someone else. Honestly, I was annoyed that HR advanced her to the interview stage.

            2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

              Honestly, I now pass on any applicant that has those schools on their application for any position that requires a degree because, through the experience, I have learned that having a degree from them is functionally equivalent to having no degree at all. It is awful for the applicant and I do feel bad for them, but not enough to hire them into a position I know they are not trained to do.

              1. Semi-regular*

                *any* applicant, regardless of their experience and work history? Seems a little silly to look at it that way, in my opinion. Further, I’m not sure a four year degree really “trains” people how to do a job except in STEM positions, YMMV, but seems foolish to dismiss and entire piece of your candidate pool without considering the rest of the data.

                1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                  Yes, a 4 year degree teaches the basic skills for jobs in my field where a degree is necessary and you can’t get work experience anywhere legit if you don’t go to a school that has a specific accreditation, which no for-profit schools have. Not every field is conducive to on-the-job training

                2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                  Continued: My field tightened up on this a lot in the past 7-8 years because of a lot of bunk degrees getting churned out creating some, frankly, hazardous situations where people may have been working in the field, but they had no clue what they were doing. That’s why I feel comfortable saying that people without appropriate 4 year degree training are not qualified and any place that hired they have work experience from in the past 7-8 years is less than legit

                3. Semi-regular*

                  Ok, I accept that this is the case in your field, and in some fields. But, will you allow the idea that many jobs that traditionally require a 4 year degree don’t really need one? And since that is the case, people who made mistakes should be let off the hook and given opportunities because this idea that everyone should go to college, that everyone needs to go to college, is problematic and wasteful on a lot of levels.

                  I have a degree from a big state school and I can’t think of a single thing I learned there that is relevant to any job I have ever had. I certainly learned “stuff” and I had a lot of fun and I love education, but as someone in HR, specifically in talent acquisition and retention, I really wish we would get away from this extremely exclusionary idea.

                  College is not necessary, valuable or possible for many people. I want more people to have more opportunities in a more equitable way, and admitting this, I think, is one of the ways we can move towards that goal.

                  Not that it helps the letter write, but maybe it helps her to know there are many people who are not judging her degree and that her career speaks for itself.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Because it speaks to judgment and understanding of academic quality and rigor. And certainly there are very understandable reasons why someone might have ended up there regardless — bad advice, little family guidance, etc. — but the reality is that many, many hiring managers cringe when they see UoP on a resume. It doesn’t reflect well on the candidate. It would be something I’d have to explain (yes, there’s UoP, but she has a phenomenal record of doing X, or so forth). I’d certainly be willing to explain that for an outstanding candidate, so I’m not saying I’d never move the person forward. But it’s a Thing that would require explanation and discussion in all the places I hire for, and you don’t want to have an obstacle like that on your resume if you can avoid it.

          I’m sure there are many places that don’t care. But there are also lots that do.

          (I’d argue it’s more unkind to tell people that having UoP on their resumes won’t matter! People deserve to have a full understanding of how it will sometimes be perceived and how it can hold them back. And truly, hiring is about making tons of snap judgments based on limited info all the time, because that’s how it works when you’re sorting through hundreds of candidates, some of them quite strong and so of them less obviously so.)

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          See the you-may-also-like a few days back about “Why is it bad to sound naive when I truly am young and naive?”

          Unlike schools that are just small and little known, which are neutral, there’s an automatic “Oh dear” on seeing the for-profits. Especially if they aren’t 30 years back. It’s something on the application that actively looks bad, not just unknown, and people wince a little on having to explain how X isn’t indicative of the candidate overall.

      3. Teal Green*

        Curious if you feel different at all regarding UoP and the year of the degree? Is my decade-old UoP degree viewed just as badly as a more recent UoP degree?

        *hindsight I should have gone somewhere else to finish my degree when I went back to school, of course, but I can’t travel back in time to change that decision.

      4. Safetykats*

        I think it really depends on the field and the degree. In engineering, I don’t care how prestigious your school is, if your degree program isn’t ABET accredited it doesn’t matter. And I’ve hired people from schools that are map dots over people from very fancy universities based other factors, like technical experience and obvious work ethic. If you’re claiming your degree to be something it’s not – that’s a problem. If you got a solid tech degree rather than a standard four-year diploma, but you’re representing your education accurately, I think that’s fine.

        If you don’t want to say DeVry, maybe just say you went to a tech school? It sounds like that’s basically what it was in that time frame. And frankly, tech school programs can be really great, and far more appropriate for a lot of fields than a not-as-applicable (and much more expensive) four year degree.

      5. Ask a Manager* Post author

        (And to be clear, I’m not saying I’d never hire them. I’m saying I’d feel I needed to justify it with other strong things about them, which isn’t a great spot for a candidate to have to be in.)

    2. MM*

      It’s definitely different. I went to a couple of prestigious universities for my BA and MA, and people fixate way more on those names than they do on what I actually did while there. I’m not saying I think this is a wise or correct way to go about things, but it’s been my experience. Some of the more blue-collar jobs on my resume have been described, by people who were hiring me later in life for a very white-collar job in DC, as “fun facts” because “it’s not something you usually see from a U of Fancy grad.” The same exact work on someone with a different education would, I suspect, simply be read as a sign of not being qualified. It’s the [sarcasm] charming juxtaposition [/sarcasm] that really makes me stand out.

    3. DataQueen*

      I do sometimes laugh and roll my eyes on behalf of the person asking me when I explain that I chose my major with the intent of becoming a celebrity wedding planner. Seriously. But i do agree with Allison that for-profit degrees in practical majors look far worse than non-profit degree in a fluffy major.

        1. DataQueen*

          A BSJ in Event Management with a minor in Public Relations. …. And my career has consisted of tech operations, analytics, and mass marketing segmentation. Alas.

    4. Antilles*

      It’s different, because the perception (correct or not, doesn’t matter) is that these schools are absolute jokes. So much so that it’s better off to not list *any* diploma (and have people assume you stopped formal education at high school) is arguably better than showing a bachelor’s from University of Phoenix.
      Your degree in mathematics from a decent school might be something you’ve never actually used in your career and have no relevance whatsoever to your current job, but it’s not an active detriment the way that for-profit colleges are.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Unfortunately yes, this – which is really unfair in cases where SOME programs might be solid and others are diploma mills. But the sense is the degree is paper only and doesn’t actually represent much learning.

      2. mrs__peel*

        As a math-phobe who’s avoid taking any math courses since 10th grade, I would find someone having a bachelor’s degree in mathematics to be quite impressive!

        I’ve participated in hiring committees, and I definitely consider having a four-year degree in anything from a reputable school to be a plus (even if the subject matter is not directly related to the job). Just completing the degree is a good sign that you’re intelligent and motivated.

    5. Jubilance*

      I’m kind of surprised you couldn’t make anything happen with a math degree – my husband has one and he’s a statistician for a healthcare company. I work as a data analyst and I regularly work with people with degrees in math, at various levels including PhD.

      1. K.*

        I was surprised by that too. I know a few people with math degrees and they’re statisticians and analysts working in banks, for the government, at consulting firms, in engineering …

        1. Roeslein*

          Same – I worked in strategy consulting for a while and it was full of folks with math degrees who had figured out didn’t want to be quants after all. I do know a couple of people with pure math PhDs who are fashionably poor / adjuncting, but this is their own choice (refusing to “sell out” to big business, etc.) rather than not being able to find anything else.

        2. LabTech*

          Former math major here. Stats, data analytics, actuarial, accounting, CS and other applied mathematics usually require specialization in those specific subfields – at least according to the job postings I’ve seen for those positions.

          Math is such a broad field that having a bachelor’s degree won’t mean much unless it’s specifically tailored to one of those in-demand fields, and even then an MS is preferred.

          1. Quant*

            Agreed, I studied pure math in college and am now a statistician. Recruiting focused solely on statistics and programming so I don’t use any pure math. The best I get is measure-theoretic stats…

      2. Pommette!*

        I have a few friends who had a hard time finding work after getting math degrees. They did not specialize in applied areas. Potential employers were interested in recruiting someone with statistical, actuarial, or other specific skills, and would hire people from other departments (biology, social science, finance, etc.) over people with more pure math backgrounds.
        Four wound up working in non-math related fields, and one went on to do a masters in order to specialize.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      My academic adviser in college was pretty insistent that unless you were looking to get into a specific field, your major wasn’t as important as a good GPA *shrug emoji.* I can’t vouch for how good their advice was since I ended up falling into a pretty practical major.

      I do know my friend who majored in math got a great job at Fidelity right out of school. That’s definitely not the first major that comes to mind when thinking of degrees people regret.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        That’s so weird. I would disagree. Your major matters some, the school itself matters a good amount, and the GPA matters very little, so long as it’s passing. Then again, I’m a midlevel white collar office worker, I know other fields are much more academically oriented.

        1. Lalaroo*

          This is all different if you ever want to go to grad school, however. In that case, your GPA matters the most, your major next (unless the grad program requires specific majors, in which case swap those), and then your school is at the bottom unless it’s an Ivy.

  8. Amber Rose*

    Success USED to come from going to those types of schools. And even though there are people who are successful after graduating a school like that, it’s usually in spite of, not because of, the school.

    I get the sense that you’re embarrassed and trying to justify your decisions, but you really don’t need to. Your track record speaks for itself.

    (And for the record, I don’t think current grads of for-profit schools should have any shame either. Being a young adult with no experience who is tricked by experienced con artists is shame on the con artist, not the victim.)

    1. OhNo*

      Grown adults who get tricked by those schools shouldn’t have any shame, either. I’ve met a few people who decided to go back to school for a bachelor’s in their forties or fifties, and they were in the same boat as the young adults – no experience with higher ed, no knowledge of how schools are regarded differently, and a smooth-talking recruiter who sells them on a for-profit school.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Well, and as a few people said, some people ARE looking for an inexpensive diploma to check a box somewhere, without having to do a lot of coursework. I could see a few of these hitting the bill.

      2. nonymous*

        I think that some schools are definitely incubators for certain experiences. So a State U, regardless of how good the academic program, will attract people who are willing to sacrifice individual attention for the sake of saving $$. What a lot of people don’t realize is that at private and for-profit Universities, the published tuition is related only tangentially to the actual amount collected. There are some schools where very few people pay the full amount (either cash or loan) and there are other schools where it’s the opposite. How the school funds the gap says a lot about the finances of the applicants and ultimately a function of marketing. It is beyond this discussion thread to go into details about the nuances regarding SES, but the end result is quite a bit of self sorting.

        Ultimately when any employer hires a new grad it is not because of demonstrated working experience specific to that degree (although adult learners may have related skills from their previous employment). One hopes that their grades demonstrate the potential of that person to apply fundamental principles to the workplace. However, a new grad that comes from the culture that the workplace supports is likely to have habits that engender them to coworkers.

  9. Say what, now?*

    Your career and your person speak more of yourself than your college. If people are seeing the person that you are but getting hung up on the school that you went to (especially since at the time it was a good school) they’re being needlessly snobby. Provided that they aren’t the ones in a position to hire you or promote you, I wouldn’t explain anything.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think there are probably a lot of people who would say their college contributed more to who they are than their career. It’s going to be different for different people. My college experience shaped pretty much every single aspect of the life I currently live.

      1. AMT*

        Same here. I’m seeing a lot of comments about how employers shouldn’t judge employees for where they went to college and I’m a bit puzzled. Sure, for someone who graduated in the ‘80s, the weight given to their undergrad degree should be minimal, but it’s not like college is just a useless checkbox. Doing well at a tough school is a challenge. Some schools are better at teaching some skills. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to consider those things in the context of someone’s other accomplishments.

  10. Lil Fidget*

    I think the issue here is that OP’s own feelings about this subject are making it come out weirder than it should, which is putting it on people’s radars as A Thing. (I do this with being single sometimes, people ask me about it and I get weird and defensive and now they can smell blood and it gets to be a whole thing, whereas if I had been chill they would have been chill and it would have passed undetected). As Alison says, people take their cues from you on these things. If your tone is calm, matter of fact, and dispassionate, this is not a big deal at all.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. I’m reading between the lines that this is a proxy for class anxiety in general since the OP was a first-generation college student who didn’t grow up with the advantages that many of their colleagues did. OP, you earned your success. Keep in the back of your mind that some of these people who are still bragging about where they went to college well into middle age may have been legacy admissions who squeaked by with a “gentleman’s C”.

      1. OP - DeVry Grad*

        Yes I will admit it! Our community definitely has a higher percentage of professionals who are fortunate to have a better life foundation that what I had. (Overall I’m a confident person, so it’s all internal, eeek).

        1. REKnight*

          OP is there any chance you could go back to school for a graduate degree somewhere?
          The best man at my wedding graduated from DeVry in the late 90s and after 7-8 years in the workforce went to DePaul University for a masters in Computer Security. It took him 4-5 years part-time, but in the end that’s the degree people look at now.

          1. OP - DeVry Grad*

            Decades ago I thought about it, but I can’t make that commitment at this time (can only afford my daughter’s college education, Sandwich generation, etc) and honestly don’t know if I have the discipline either (I still love learning). Based on my career history I don’t think I’ve suffered for it, so it’s still a dream.

  11. Drew*

    How often does your alma mater come up when you’re 30 years post-grad? I went to a school that I think was pretty terrible, but it was the right financial decision at the time to get the degree and move on with my life. On the rare occasions that people ask, I Just say “I went to school in Denver” and change the subject. It’s not an important part of my life or career anyway, so there are much more interesting things to talk about.

    1. Snark*

      That’s actually a great idea. “I went to school in {city}. How did you like Big U? I’ve heard there’s some crazy parties there!” and then just let them take the ball and run with it. All people want to do when they ask that question is tell you where they went, after all.

    2. mskyle*

      Yeah, I’m not quite 20 years out of college and I hardly ever talk about where I went – I doubt most of the people I’ve met in the last 5 years even know where I went to school! Not because it’s a painful subject or anything, just generally not relevant.

    3. Lil Fidget*

      I think it’s also better that this was all a while ago. Among the senior team at my office, there’s at least one who didn’t go to college at all (or maybe he got some kind of online bachelor’s very late in life or something, but he’s no Ivy Leaguer). I feel like that would never happen now, because hiring people are so laser focused on relevant degree and specific internships etc – but he’s an older gentleman who climbed the ranks with contacts and experience and was sort of “grandfathered in” to the old system. Another very senior guy I know had a dance degree and then came to our field much later, and nobody seems to think about it twice now. This OP sounds like they have the tenure to rate that kind of rank.

    4. Kathleen_A*

      I’ve been out of college a looooong time (Undisclosed California State University Class of ’81!), and I actually still get asked where I went.

      I’m not sure, but think this is because I now live in Indiana, where people are pretty much obsessed with the Indiana University v. Purdue University question, so when people ask “Where did you go to college?” what they really want to know is “Are you a Hoosier or a Boilermaker?” I’m not from here, so the idea of being so oddly fixated on those two schools even though there are several other possibilities is foreign to me. But nonetheless, they really do. YMMV, of course.

      I seldom get asked this from by California friends and relations, BTW, because of course it’s silly. I’ve had decades now to become much better or much worse at my profession without any help or hindrance from Undisclosed California State U.

    5. Yorick*

      Well, if I specifically asked someone where they went to college and they gave the city, I’d find that super weird. I’d think they were hiding something.

      Of course, if you’re mentioning something about that time in your life there’s no reason to name the college, you can just say you lived there during college.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I don’t think it’s unusual to respond that way at all. There are a ton of small colleges that most people probably wouldn’t be familiar with. If you went to a school like that I imagine it’s pretty common to just talk about the area rather than give a name you aren’t expecting will be recognized.

      2. LQ*

        It seems really easy to give the name of the city. I suspect I’m not the only one who does this. Especially for schools that are state schools where the name of the city is the name of the school in a lot of ways. For me it’s literally part of the name of the school, but if I said U of M people would assume the wrong one. So I’m going to say the city and if they have heard of it they’ll respond, if not… ok that’s a place I don’t know of next more interesting topic. (For me mostly because unless you want to talk about a couple of great anecdotes it’s just not that interesting to me.)

      3. The New Wanderer*

        I think it depends on what city it is. I went to a small university in a really big city, so I sometimes answer with the city name first because it’s more recognizable to most people. But I went to grad school in a big state school in an otherwise small town (technically two small towns), so there I use the university name because it names the state, not just the lesser known towns.

    6. Karo*

      I think to some extent it depends on where you live. I live in the Southeast (which is obsessed with college football), in the same town as a university that’s known for football. I’m about a decade out of college and still get asked where I went to school on occasion.

    7. shep*

      I think this is a great idea as well. For undergrad, I went to an excellent school which is incidentally where many of my office’s directors also went, so I tend to be forthcoming when asked about it. My master’s degree is from an equally excellent school, but VERY small and not well-known beyond niche circles. It also has an oddly for-profit SOUNDING name (despite being a small liberal arts college), so people tend to give me the side-eye when I say the name of the school itself.

      So for the grad degree, when asked, I just focus on the degree itself, i.e., “And I have master’s in teapot-making,” or “I ended up getting my master’s from a great little liberal arts college,” etc., without mentioning the name.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      IME? Never. I graduated 29 years ago, from a pretty good school. (Overseas, but there are enough alumni in major cities/companies in the US that I could use that for networking if I wanted to.) It never came up in my career. I did have my fellow alumni put my older son’s resume in at Cool Name Companies when he graduated, with a degree in the same major that I had. But my son himself had graduated from a really humble, lower-ranking state school. He got interviews and job offers, worked at a Silicon Valley startup for a year and some months, where, in his own words, “nobody cared that I went to a crappy state school”.

      It might be when you are way up in the rarefied circles of society, running for Senate or a C-level position or something like that, that one’s alma mater might come up – I would not know from personal experience. Or if you are changing careers, maybe? Again, just guessing.

    9. DataQueen*

      People who went to schools with strong legacies and active alumni networks often talk about those schools well after graduation. Both of my brothers went to those types of schools and all their job opportunities, their volunteer opportunities, even their current social circles and sports teams (both schools they went to have active alumni clubs in our city), all resulted from their alma mater. I went to a good school but without a strong community, and I can’t say I’ve mentioned it’s name in at least 10 years, other than to say “you probably haven’t heard of it.” But you get what you pay for – I took a full ride to Decent School and built my career on practical experience (specifically my internships – please tell your kids that you need need need good internships!). My brothers paid a premium for tuition, but got the benefit of getting career opportunities through the alumni network and getting interviewed just because of the degree on their resume.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t mean to nitpick, but I don’t think it’s true that you pay for what you get! I hear you on name-branding and cost, but thankfully there are still rigorous universities (perhaps without the Andy-Bernard-level name-dropping years after graduation) with active alumni networks who are competitive for competitive careers or opportunities only open to “the elite.”

        1. DataQueen*

          Totally agree – it’s not one or the other. In my brothers case, they explicitly chose prestigious name-brand schools with high tuition because of the alumni networks and opportunities and the name-dropping potential, when other education would have been fine.

    10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This can be tough, though, because there’s also a bunch of people who say things like “I went to school in Boston” (MIT/Harvard, coincidentally not in Boston) because they assume that the other person will be intimidated by their degree. It’s a weird false modesty. So although I think it could skirt the issue in many cases, for some folks, it’s going to seem like you’re being cagey because you assume the other person will be overwhelmed by your impressive name-brand university.

      1. fposte*

        I noted in grad school that there were upward inflection schools and downward inflection schools. It wasn’t necessarily a merit-based distinction, and a school could shift categories depending on where you were regionally and educationally. But it was amusing to contrast my friend who went to “Pomona? It’s one of the Claremont colleges? Outside of Los Angeles?” and my friend who went to “the University of Illinois.”

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ha! True. I will say that I had to clarify my school based on whether I was on the West Coast or in New England because of people’s different assumptions about what the name referred to. (I suspect it’s similar for people who go to Loyola.)

        2. Someone else*

          At least your friend wasn’t one of the people who refers to the Claremont colleges as “in Los Angeles”. Those people perplex me.

      2. VelociraptorAttack*

        Back when I was still working in politics there was a guy running for a state House seat who never missed an opportunity to say he “went to school in Boston, well right outside of Boston”. One of my roommates (I lived with a few coworkers) and I would always take count of how many times he said it and how long it would take him to let the cat out of the bag that it was Harvard.

        It never took very long. Weird false modesty, indeed.

      3. Jennifer Thneed*

        It can be? I remember as a teen, meeting other teens in the youth group thing I was part of, where I never said that I lived in Santa Monica, because they weren’t just from out of town, they were from out of state. Anyone who asked, I told them I lived in LA, because it was much more relevant. (If they indicated knowing the area, then I’d get more specific.)

    11. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      Actually – now that I think about it… I’ve been out of school for about 10 years, and I can’t even remember the last time my college came up – in that I was specifically asked “what school did you go to”. I just went to a friend’s housewarming party last week and met a bunch of new people – never came up once.

      FWIW – Im also not keen on bringing up my alma mater. The school is well-known/well regarded in a very, very specific niche, but to the public at large it probably appears to be a glorified community college.

      1. Dankar*

        For me it always comes up this way:

        Them: Where are you from?
        Me: Originally Florida, but I moved here from Connecticut.
        Them: Why the hell would you move up north from Florida?!
        Me: For school. I went to [little known university with primarily first-gen students] for my MFA.
        Them: Wow, never heard of it.

        But I work in higher ed administration, where the school you went to, the degree you got and the level of education you have are typical topics for casual conversation.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          But I think a lot of it is in what info you choose to volunteer. Sure college/school comes up vaguely, but I typically gloss over it and people rarely question it or press it with “No, I mean what school did you go to”.

          EG: I’m constantly asked what brought me to this area (NYC). It was my school. I always just say “School, but I fell in love with the city and I’m still here. What about yourself?”.

    12. DataQueen*

      Also want to add that where I live, your HIGH SCHOOL comes up all the time. When someone says “where did you go to school?,” they mean for K-12 or high school. We have some of the best public schools in the country, but everyone sends their kids to boarding school. I didn’t grow up here, and that was a huge culture shock to me. But people definitely like to congregate as Taft, Hotchkiss, Andover, Old Farms, whatever, alumni. At one particular event, where this was a big topic of conversation, when asked where I went to school, I said “Hogwarts.” No one thought I was funny.

  12. Free Meerkats*

    Or everyone who has been out of school for more than, say, 5 years could just stop waving their school affiliation around like it’s important.

    By far, the worst for this are those who attended the Ivys and the Service Academies. Yes, they are hard to get into. And at least the Academies will send you packing immediately if you don’t keep up.

        1. Snark*

          It’s the faux-modest way people from Harvard tell you they went to Harvard. “I was in New Haven,” is code for “I WENT TO HARVARD BE IMPRESSED”

          1. MM*

            I know you’ve already been corrected, but I just wanted to say the mix-up you’ve done here is so funny to me because of the rivalry. If only some of them knew! They’d be furious! I love it.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I thought it was intentional too.

              But I only know it because I used to date someone who had gone to New Haven. He waited until the second date to tell me, he’s a humble guy like that.

              1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

                I am from Cambridge, MA. I have never lived out of the country. This was a real conversation I had with an out of town college student. He was attending Harvard and we were literally standing in Cambridge, MA at the time. He was not drunk or otherwise impaired.

                Me: so where are you from?
                Him: Iowa. What about you?
                Me: Oh, I’m a townie. I grew up in Cambridge.
                Him: oh, you’re from England? I don’t hear an accent.
                Me: ……
                Him: what? Do you prefer to be called British?
                Me: nope. It’s fine. Just rethinking my opinion of Harvard. Have a nice night! Cheerio!

            1. please*

              I went to Harvard (undergrad) and never or rarely heard a Harvard grad say “Cambridge” in this way – it’s “Boston” or “Just outside Boston.”

              I also went to Yale (grad school) and we don’t think it’s common to use “New Haven” to humblebrag – it’s just Connecticut or straight up Yale.

          2. Natalie*

            Or the 30 Rock style:

            “I went to school in Boston. Well, not in Boston but nearby. …No, not Tufts.”

            1. Atlantic Toast Conference*

              Ha! One of my favorite 30 Rock moments.

              I recently met a couple at church (who, it turns out, both went to Harvard) and in introducing themselves they said this almost verbatim. It was amazing, and I loved it.

        2. Penny Lane*

          LOL! Harvard is in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Yale is in New Haven, Connecticut.

          By the way, when you all use the term Ivies, are you all using it to refer only to the *specific* 8 schools of the Ivy League (Harvard, Yale, U of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth and Brown) or are you all using it as a shorthand for “top academic schools” (in which case you’re also referring to MIT, Duke, U of Chicago, Cal Tech, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, etc.)? I’m curious how you all use it because I see people use it both ways.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I would never call U of Chicago (??) or Cal Tech “an ivy,” for the record. I think there’s some misunderstanding among plebes like me about which 8 are in or out, so there may be mistakes around the edges. Most people honestly are thinking of Harvard or Yale when they say “ivies,” which are the only ones we’re sure of TBH (not from an academic background here).

            1. K.*

              Yeah, I use it to mean the 8 schools in the Ivy League. I actually corrected a bio recently in which a person said Stanford was in the Ivy League. The Ivies are Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania. (Also the sentence was incredibly pretentiously written, so I rewrote it to be both more accurate and less insufferable.)

              1. Lil Fidget*

                Yeah to the average man on the street (like me) I’d say I wouldn’t be even 50% sure on Brown or UPenn (I get it confused with Penn State, sorry) and would be 50/50 on Columbia (higher chance I would guess this right) Cornell and Dartmouth, but I’m 100% on Harvard, Yale and Princeton. I might confusedly think someplace like Stanford or Northwestern or Duke was in, but then I’d remember they’re all East Coast only schools. My level of caring about any of it is extremely not-high, except that I acknowledge that lots of presidents/supreme court justices / whatever went to either Harvard, Yale or Princeton.

                1. K.*

                  I grew up in Philly and a lot of people mix up Penn, which is in Philly proper (I love the part of the city that Penn is in), and Penn State, which is a few hours away in State College, PA. After the football child molestation scandal at Penn State a few years ago, Penn students and alums were particularly keen to keep that distinction clear.

                  People also mix up Columbia University and the University of South Carolina, which is in Columbia, SC. I went to Columbia and sometimes people will say “In South Carolina?” and I say no, in New York City, and then the conversation goes however it goes.

                2. GamecockAlum*

                  K. – There is a Columbia College in South Carolina. Maybe that’s what they’re confusing it with? As of UofSC graduate, we usually get confused with Univerisity of Southern California.

                3. Jennifer Thneed*

                  @GamecockAlum: and USC isn’t even a state school! It’s a very very expensive private college that we used to refer to as the “University of Spoiled Children”.

                4. KayEss*

                  As a 30-year Chicago-area native… I’m still always kind of befuddled that Northwestern is a Big10 school. But everyone where I grew up knows its where local kids with aspirations toward the real Ivies apply to as a safety school.

          2. Snark*

            No, it’s the specific 8. I’ve had a CalTech grad try to convince me it’s one of the ivies, and it was real uncomfortable. But as we’ve established, my opinion on the Ivies is somewhat less than fully reliable.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              This makes no sense to me. Isn’t the Ivy League specifically an east coat thing? I’ve heard of people trying to stick Duke in there, but schools from California??

              1. Lil Fidget*

                Yeah, but people now just think it means “the top 8-10 colleges” in the US. They don’t realize that’s not what it ever meant.

                1. Penny Lane*

                  Which is so silly, because the Ivies are simply 8 *of* the top colleges in the US, not THE top 8. And of course you’ve got the top liberal arts colleges – Williams, Amherst, Wellesley, Swarthmore, and so forth.

          3. grace*

            When I talk about the ivies I mean the regular 8 everyone thinks of! I’m from NC and would never consider Duke an Ivy…. Though that may be my Tarheel breeding shining through. ;) I was very interested in other “southern ivies,” though, which is how people I know refer to them.

          4. Falling Diphthong*

            I would use/interpret is to mean “the 8 Ivies.” (And I went to one, which is part of why I don’t think they have magic powers compared to other top schools.) You can make a case that MIT, for example, is as good as an Ivy, or more prestigious than an Ivy for any number of specific programs, but as soon as you call it an ivy, then the framing becomes “Ivies are the best and so I’m pretending I went to one.”

          5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Oh definitely the 8 in the Ivy League. I know other people who try to call their universities/colleges the “Ivy of [region],” but I find it grasping. I also don’t like the phrase “public ivies.”

      1. artgirl*

        That’s Yale ;) and far more telling! Since “Boston” could mean Harvard or a thousand other colleges, technically, though I think BU, Tufts, and many of the rest tend to be called by their names.

        The even-more-obnoxious version of this is Harvard’s ScD (PhD equivalent) — that way you don’t even have to be asked, your weird doctoral designation makes it pretty clear that you went to one of a very small number of places where they confer that particular degree.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Is it a faux pas to say you “went to school in Boston” if you went to BU, I wonder – like people will assume you’re modestly declining to name Harvard. Things you don’t have to worry about when you go to a scrappy state school in the middle of nowhere :P

          1. Editor Person*


            “Oh you’re from Boston? I went to school there.”
            “Oh? Where?”
            “Boston University.”
            And then I see them deflate.

            1. Julianne*

              This happens to me all the time when people from not-Massachusetts ask me what brought me to Massachusetts. Even if they literally only know my name and that I went to BU and not Harvard, and nothing else about me, they look at me funny. Disappointed? Like I just tried to deceive them? I don’t know.

          2. Bea W*

            I don’t think so, especially locally. Harvard is in Cambridge, not Boston. It’s an important distinction! If you told me you went to college in Boston, I immediately think BU or BC, maybe Northeastern but there are so many schools up here it really could be any one of them NOT in Cambridge. :D

            This may not hold true if you’re saying it anywhere outside of 128.

            1. artgirl*

              Ah interesting! I have never lived even in Massachusetts so I think I’m only exposed to people referring to Boston as the region. A “Cambridge” reference where I currently live would probably be seen as even more of an obvious humblebrag…perhaps to the point of being gauche.

            2. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

              Agreed. There are so many colleges here in Eastern MA that I will basically nod understandingly when someone tells me that they went to school in Boston…even if that school is Tufts or Brandeis (not technically in Boston!). I will give you side eye if you try to pass off a college in central MA or southern NH as Boston though. A lot of people do try.

            3. Grapey*

              +1 to outside 128. I went to a state school in MA past 128 comprised of mostly MA residents and nobody knew my small shore town. So after the first year I’d just say “I’m from Boston”. The few people inside 128 got a clarification when they asked what part of boston lol.

            4. BananaPants*

              Yeah, I hear Boston and I think BU, BC, Northeastern – maybe Tufts or Brandeis (even though technically they’re not in the city of Boston). “Cambridge” is a dead giveaway for Harvard.

              The MIT grads who I know usually get specific and just *say* where they went to school rather than trying to namedrop the city.

        2. Adhdyanon*

          My mom’s friend, who I think was a teacher (and went to Radcliffe) used to say – “You know what the hardest part about Harvard is? Getting in”. She’d then launch into a whole thing about how you get out what you put into an education wherever you go. Which I now know is totally true.

      2. hbc*

        The official joke for that area is “When you see someone with 30 items in the 10 Items or Less lane at a Cambridge grocery store, it’s either a Harvard student who can’t count or an MIT student who can’t read.”

      3. Bostonian*

        Actually, it’s way cooler for people who go to Harvard to have false modesty and say “Cambridge”… just so we’re clear ;-)

    1. Temperance*

      For what it’s worth, though, this isn’t really a solution to LW’s issue. I went to a state school that I absolutely loved, as did many others, and it’s honestly always a great ice breaker to talk about.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I am still learning that some questions, like “what do you do” at parties, or “where did you go to school” in work contexts, are kind of crappy for me to ask, and I should find new questions that are less class signifies like “what do you like to do for fun” or “what brought you to teapot manufacturing.”

        1. Temperance*

          The “where did you go to school” thing always comes up for me at networking events, but I’m a lawyer typically meeting other lawyers, so we’ve all gone to at least 2 different schools. I went to Penn State, and I find that our alumni are everywhere.

          It’s a fairly safe question, at least in that context, although I will admit to chatting someone up in a bar who was wearing a Penn State jersey about what year they graduated, only to find out that they didn’t go to college and just liked the football team. I wanted to crawl under a table because he acted like I was the stupidest person ever to assume that someone supporting PSU attended PSU.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I think law is traditionally noted as a field that is still very obsessed with where you went to school (and how good that school is) long after graduation, even 30 years along. Other fields this is much less the case. I do think there’s class elements to all of it though.

            1. mrs__peel*

              Probably in the white-shoe world, though I haven’t found that to be the case at all in the government/non-profit legal sectors I’ve worked in.

              Most of the senior attorneys and judges I’ve worked with in the federal government went to state or local law schools, and a number of them did stints in the military to help cover the costs.

        2. Judy (since 2010)*

          My go-to question is “So what is keeping you busy these days?” That can be answered by work, home, hobbies, etc. It lets someone direct the answers to what they want.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Yeah at parties this is much kinder. Don’t embarrass someone who is out of a job or not working for whatever reason, or has a job that doesn’t represent their goals.

        3. Yorick*

          I don’t think it’s crappy to ask people what they do. One’s profession is a huge part of their life, and asking about it isn’t shallow or whatever.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            It’s so, so common that’s it’s unavoidable (I live in DC and you can’t meet anyone without this question) but I’m trying to “be the change” and ask people something more inclusive that gives them the opportunity to share something a little wider than their paid work. For the record, I once asked this question to somebody who was on disability and they were embarrassed, and other people were around, and I realized I was being a heel. Anyway, there is a subtext to asking about somebody’s job that is like – are you somebody worth knowing? Somebody I can use? Are we in the same class? I now avoid it.

        4. Liane*

          Miss Manners has written that people should feel free to answer “What do you do” as your “what do you like to do for fun” so that’s a very good one.

      2. cncx*

        same here. i work in europe and my university is considered kind of an oddity with other americans (southern football school) and it is an amazing ice breaker in interviews, even though i graduated 15 years ago. i get asked about it a lot, i don’t even have to bring it up in interviews, they see it on my CV and want to talk about it.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      That’s actually a little unfair. A lot of people maintain strong ties to their university through philanthropy, alumni associations, etc. I am personally on my former department advisory board. I send them money. I’m apparently filling out some survey as part of the Dean’s 5-year performance review (because I’m totally qualified to assess how he’s doing!). I work with their interns and new grads at my company, and we send women to speak at their Society of Women Engineers events.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        That’s great, but do you harangue colleagues about where THEY went to school? I’m sure you don’t, because you seem like a nice person :)

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I don’t harass others about it, but that wasn’t Free Meerkat’s comment. He said stop waving it around like it’s important. My point is that it IS important to a lot of people for the rest of their lives.

          I admit that this does come up at my work fairly often, though. Almost no one went to an elite university, so it’s usually a friendly debate over State X vs. U State, which are rivals. Some roles in my company require a 2-year technical education, and when I do come across someone who went to say, Vatterott or DeVry, I just say, “Oh, yeah?” and move on. Same as if they went to State Q University, which I do not care about at all.

          1. STG*

            In all fairness, it’s important to you though and not everyone else. I think that’s closer to the point.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              Yeah, I guess I interpreted it more as “no one cares because it’s ancient history” more than no one cares, in the same way that they don’t care about your pet ferret or Crossfit gains.

    3. C.*

      Honestly, would love to know the least assholish way to deal with this. If I say I went to [Ivy], it comes off as pretentious. If I say I went to school in [Ivy location], it comes off like I’m playing coy and just want you to ask where I went.
      I don’t want to be a dick. I was lucky to go to the school I did – I don’t want to brag about it, but neither do I want to hide it, you know?

        1. C.*

          Thank you! This & what EditorInChief said below is basically what I do – I agree it’s mostly in how you say it and whether you come off as a raging douchecanoe or not. I just get paranoid sometimes because of the bad rap the dickwads give the rest of us.

        2. Yada Yada Yada*

          IMO this sounds braggy. I’ve heard people say “I went to XYX Fancy School” before without all the qualifiers. In a friendly tone of voice and it sounds perfectly normal! No need to expound on it

      1. EditorInChief*

        It’s all in how you say it. I went to an Ivy, which I never mention unless someone asks, and when they do I just say I went to XXXX school, and then ask a follow up question about whatever we had been talking about at the time. If people persist with questions, I just say it like any college experience, you get what you put into it and that usually ends the topic.

      2. Chicken*

        IMO the best thing is just to say “I went to [Ivy]” and act the the normal / non-condescending person you clearly are. I find the “I went to school in New Haven” thing incredibly pretentious, but “I went to Yale” is just stating a fact.

      3. Cordoba*

        I have a graduate degree from one of the most selective and well-known engineering schools, one of the ones they use in movies as shorthand to indicate “this character is the super smart guy in this movie”.

        When it comes up in conversation I typically say something along the lines of “I got a masters at [school], and I’m an idiot. Turns out they’re not as picky as people think.”

        In an interview or similar professional context I’d play it straight(er), but outside of work I like to make it real clear that it’s something I regard as a lucky break rather than a big prestigious accomplishment.

      4. Cordoba*

        I did a graduate program at a selective and very well-known engineering school, one of the schools that movies use in character bios as shorthand for “this character is the super smart character in this movie”.

        When it comes up in any context other than a job interview I typically say something like “I went to [school] for my masters. So even all those smart people there can make a mistake and let me in.”

        In an interview I’d play it straight(er) but in conversation I like to make it real clear that I think of it as a lucky break rather than a big deal.

        If you don’t want to make a joke out of it I highly recommend just saying the school name rather than doing the Abbot and Costello routine where you just give the city or zip code or whatever. At best that comes off as false modesty, at worst it is confusing or embarrassing to people who don’t have the background or exposure to elite schools to know which one is where and what the actual meaning of geographic descriptors in lieu of school names.

      5. K.*

        When asked, I say matter-of-factly “I went to Columbia” and respond to follow-up questions/comments accordingly. The only time I get snippy is when someone makes a comment about affirmative action (I’m Black and female), which happens with enough regularity that I have a stock response, but I don’t feel bad about doing that.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Ooh, if you are willing I’d be interested in hearing the stock response. You should not have to put up with that!!

          1. K.*

            It goes like this:
            Person: “Where’d you go to school?”
            Me: “Columbia.”
            Person: [pauses, looks me up and down] “… Affirmative action?” Or “Were you on an athletic scholarship?” Or “Affirmative action must have helped you, huh?”
            Me: [looks person dead in the eye] “No, I’m very smart.”

      6. mrs__peel*

        I went to Cornell, which (when I’ve lived in other parts of the country) tends to make people go, “Ooooh, fancy!!” In my home area of upstate NY, though, people tend to associate it mainly with cows. Or jam-making at the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

    4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      On the west coast I haven’t heard a lot of Ivy League bragging, but I know every person who graduated from USC.

      1. Cordoba*

        A good response to California USC bragging is “Wow, we don’t get many people from South Carolina here on the West Coast”.

        The best version of this is deliberately confusing Penn State and University of Pennsylvania around UPenn grads who are overly invested in having gone to an Ivy League school.

  13. TotesMaGoats*

    I work in higher ed. Always have. I have less issue with someone going to a for profit than I do with someone working there.

    Sometimes it was the cheaper/more accessible/faster choice. I’m not going to fault someone on that. As long as it’s regionally accreditation, which DeVry is. (So is Phoenix for that matter) I do give side eye to people who worked there in administrative roles. Faculty not as much. I know what went down in admissions offices in for profits. Wrong doesn’t even cover it. But that’s my bias. I’ve never not hired someone because of it though.

    1. KayEss*

      This. If a degree from a for-profit is a flag for bad judgement, a work history at one signals a level of willful disregard for both morality and the principles of higher education as a service institution that should be a serious “will this person fit with our mission and culture” concern for a nonprofit school.

      1. anonagain*

        I think a lot of the staff at those places are probably just people who have rent to pay, groceries to buy, and limited options.

        I think the staff, like the students, for the most part, are just making the best choices they can in a crappy situation. I don’t think they’re choosing to work at these schools out of a strong sense of identification with the values or mission.

        If your comments refer only to the executive-type people (the presidents, owners, directors, et al.), then I agree.

        1. KayEss*

          I would say it applies to anyone in a position that supported the economic model–recruitment, financial “aid,” etc. There’s a huge difference between students being one of several populations you serve and being the primary commodity you’re milking for profits.

          Of course, it would depend on how long they were in the position, how long ago it was, whether they worked at multiple for-profit institutions or just had a brief stint at one and went on to other work, etc. I’m not saying anyone should be blackballed because of one job they had, just like ideally no one would be blackballed because of where their degree is from–but it should definitely be enough to put a “?” in the margin and address it during an interview… and I think it’s unfortunately perfectly reasonable that candidates with too many “?”s would be less likely to get interviews if a position has multiple well-qualified candidates whose employment history doesn’t raise similar questions.

  14. Someone*

    Whenever someone tells me that they earned a BS, I always think: Oh, you have a BS degree? Like a degree that is BS…makes me laugh every time. This joke is barely relevant in the context of this post…

    Anyway, I agree with AAM- your degree doesn’t feel that important to me in the context of your now thirty year old career beyond that.

    1. hermit crab*

      Also barely relevant, but – in the Library of Congress cataloging system, where call numbers have two-letter prefixes, religious texts and related materials are shelved in and around “BS.” I took a lot of religious studies classes in college and always kinda enjoyed telling my roommates that, if anyone needed me, I’d be studying in the BS section. :)

    2. Lil Fidget*

      I was secretly so relieved to get a bachelor’s of (something weird) and an MS, even though it was all random based on the college, so that I did not have to cop to having a BS degree.

    1. JLH*

      Try going to a college in the same town and having to explain the vast, vast difference between the two. :P

    2. KitKat*

      But seriously though. I would have a hard time keeping an open mind about someone’s cultural fit at my very progressive nonprofit employer if I saw that they went to Liberty or Bob Jones or another very conservative, religious institution. Could that be construed as religious discrimination?

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        No, but that’s because discrimination is a thing you *do*. Like not even interviewing someone regardless of their resume.

        You might be prejudiced, but that’s just the human condition. We’re all prejudiced and biased because it’s how our brains work – brains like shortcuts a lot.

      2. Dankar*

        I live pretty close to Liberty (same general region of the state) and the people I know who live and work in Lynchburg stay far, FAR away from the side of town that the campus is on. The students I’ve met, though, when I use the train station there, have all been very typical college kids.

        You’re right that they may not fit in at a liberal or progressive non-profit, but for a regular private sector job, they wouldn’t have any issues with the work culture. Actually, a lot of the profs where I work consider them unusually studious when they wind up in our classes for a semester.

      3. mrs__peel*

        I don’t think it’s discriminatory to have doubts about the quality of the instruction there, and to be concerned about how that may impact their graduates.

        If (say) you work in a STEM field, you’d have very reasonable cause to believe that what they’re teaching in those places is not really “science” per se.

  15. The Cosmic Avenger*

    When it comes up, I would hope that at least some of the time you could not justify it at all. While that might not always be the best approach, if there’s some way to work in or steer the conversation toward your current work skills and experience, that’s more relevant anyway. And if they know you’re a Senior Teapot Designer or you manage a teapot design team, then that should say a lot more about your abilities than where you went to school decades ago. This is a way we can push people to learn to measure based on actual job performance, not markers with weak or no correlation to performance.

    I know that’s not always possible or even desirable, but there’s plenty of good advice here on how to talk about it; I just wanted to point out that it may not be necessary to address it every time it makes the OP self-conscious.

    I know a manager who once reported to someone who had only a high school diploma. Yet this senior manager with no degree had founded a very successful nonprofit, and was at the top of her field. Most people in that field had no idea about her background, they just knew her reputation based on her work. A few people were snobby jerks, of course, but mostly that reflected poorly on the snobs and didn’t affect the senior manager.

  16. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    Just here to add that lots of us in the IT industry are aware that DeVry was a good technical college for a long time. This question may not come up as much depending on whether you are interviewing with technology places that have experienced technical recruiters. I get that many folks are not experienced recruiters, but I am unsure why anyone would question a degree from the 80s in the first place (regardless of whether the university is for-profit or not).

  17. Cassivella*

    The biggest problem with schools such as DeVry isn’t that they are for-profit, it’s that the classes aren’t accredited. You can’t transfer your English class at DeVry to credit at a real college.

    So, saying you got a Bachelor of Science from DeVry doesn’t mean you did the same general education requirements as someone who got a BS from a real university.

    All the people I’ve worked with who graduated from DeVry had the exact same issues: horrible grammar, an inability to communicate in writing, and the inability to think outside the box or transfer knowledge from one situation to the next. These are the things those “useless” GEC courses in college teach you.

    1. fposte*

      There’s some different stuff muddled up in here, though.

      1) DeVry is accredited
      2) transferability is a separate issue from accreditation
      3) plenty of solid universities don’t have required GEC courses either

      1. Cassivella*

        I guess I am talking specifically about Ohio, where colleges have banded together to form their own accreditation network to ensure transferability of college courses.

        If you take your GECs at Columbus State, you know for certain they will transfer to Ohio State or Wright State.

        If you take non-major courses at DeVry or Bradford Schools, they will not because they are not academically robust enough to meet the accreditation standards in Ohio.

        I’ve never seen an actual college or university not require education outside the major area in order to receive a BA/BS. That’s kind of the difference between a college and a vocational school.

        1. yellowhornet*

          “I’ve never seen an actual college or university not require education outside the major area in order to receive a BA/BS.”

          There are good, regionally accredited schools out there that don’t require GenEd coures. For example, Amherst has no required GenEd courses, although students are certainly encouraged to take courses outside of their major focus:

          1. mrs__peel*

            The university I went to had extremely vague requirements for BAs– e.g., 1 “quantitative” course, 2 “social science” courses, etc.

            Depending on your field, you could use courses in your major to fulfill those requirements. For example, I was a linguistics major and took a Semantics course to fulfill the “quantitative” requirement. (I thought I was weaseling out of taking math, but it turned out to be a million times worse…)

        2. fposte*

          What you’re talking about in the Ohio system sounds like a reciprocity agreement, which is separate from accreditation. Columbus State is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, not any Ohio-specific accreditation body. It’s not uncommon for community colleges to have transfer agreements with nearby four-year colleges, but that’s not related to accreditation. (Also, individual *courses* aren’t accredited.)

          The meaning of accreditation varies wildly; some highly rigorous programs have no accrediting body, and at least one accrediting body got shut down recently as being an accreditation mill. Individual schools and programs often have judgments about transferability that are separate from accreditation questions–Columbus State credits won’t automatically transfer to all schools accredited by SACSCOC, for instance.

          I went to one of the top undergrads in the country and had no GEC requirements. They’re really not universal.

          1. Cassivella*

            I’m discussing something different than the nationwide accrediting bodies.

            But, there is a state-wide organization (the Articulation Agreement and Credit Transfer Task Force) that accredits each college to ensure that GEC courses meet minimum requirements (The OTM). It also covers the ability to transfer financial aid and take courses at another Ohio university while enrolled at a different Ohio university. In essence, all member universities now function as the part of one, large, state-wide university.

            The technical schools such as DeVry do not qualify for membership as they are not academically rigorous enough. They keep trying to join each time it comes around, as it would financially benefit them greatly.

            1. fposte*

              Yes, that’s what I was imagining–it’s an agreement about reciprocity and credit transfer, not an accreditation. It’s nice that Ohio’s worked out something with good umbrella reach there, as it’s a huge benefit to participants.

        3. Oryx*

          I previously worked at a for-profit college in Ohio. Ours was accredited, but they were accredited by an organization that specifically accredits for-profit schools. So most for-profit schools ARE accredited, it’s one thing they often mention in all of their advertisements. The key though, as you note, is that the accreditation only really counts for other for-profit schools.

    2. OP - DeVry Grad*

      At the time of my graduation, I received a letter from the State of CA, that offered a free ride to a CalState for a teaching credential (they were short on teachers). (I had a Cal Grant, it would of been in a form of another Cal Grant). I did not do it, at the time I was burned out on school (I also took classes at a community class, because I love to learn) and I needed to start a job. – I do know at the time, DeVry was regionally accredited (I think by the same commission that the U of MN earned their creds from?) and I don’t think CA would of made that offer if I could not transfer most of my degree. Also, CA has a requirement that a BS degree has so many education hours and a certain amount of liberal arts classes, which I had a DeVry.

  18. Madame X*

    I think Alison’s script is excellent, if only it helps you gain some piece of mind when you speak about your education credentials. For what it’s worth, I don’t think too many people would care that much especially considering that you have led a successful career in spite of your alma matter.
    On a side note, there is a great book, Lower Ed, that details the rise of for-profit colleges and how they capitalized and exploited disadvantaged as part of their business model. Much as you have described, she details how for-profit schools were once an alternative for post-secondary education that actually helped their students. However, by 90s Wall-Street brokers entered the scene of the for-profit industry. For-profit colleges became defined by their revenue generating activities to the detriment of their students.

    1. profinrva*

      +1 for Lower Ed – amazing book. Reading it also helped me understand a lot about various reasons why some (perfectly savvy) students still choose for-profit schools. It’s not just about the schools being predatory or the students lacking info — it’s also reflective of our society and politics and everything.

  19. Beep*

    I guess… I am just confused on why people are asking the OP where they went to college, especially since it was 30 years ago. I graduated only four years ago and I was asked the college questions maybe the first six months after graduating. Once I got a 9-5 job, the college questions was replaced with the “what do you do?” line of questioning.

  20. Tea*

    I like some of the suggested scripts from Allison and the other commentators, but I think for something short and sweet while minimum weirdness, a line like “Oh, DeVry, but that was way back in the day,” will get the point across. If people press or want to talk about it any further, then you can whip out the line about how it’s too bad it’s really changed because it used to be a great alternative to traditional universities.

  21. Emmie*

    I hope you can pull some of the shame out of your choice at a different time in your life when the school had quite a different reputation. I recommend saying something like:

    – “I attended a tech school, DeVry, that utilized current IT practices [some favorable thing] at the time. While the school’s reputation has changed significantly since then, I really valued x, y, and z at the time.” Then, turn the conversation to your accomplishments. I like the combination of acknowledging the school’s reputation today with the valuable things it taught you then and moving onto other relevant info.
    – In social situations, I recommend you talk about your major instead of the school you went to. “What school did you go to?” “I went local majoring in IT, how about you?” It’s such an odd thing to ask about far after graduation.
    – Have you done any recent education? Like the Disney Institute, have a PMI certification, or did a Harvard extension class. “I have a Bachelors in IT, and just finished my PMI certification at ABC.” It leads a discussion down more relevant paths to show your up-to-date credentials.

    These recommendations might not work in all situations; however, you don’t want a person’s memory of your education conversation to be “wow, OP attended DeVry and is really ashamed of it.” FWIW, I don’t think you need to be ashamed of the choice. I was first-generation and knew nothing about choosing schools either. Plus, there are plenty of grads in your boat. Or grads of other schools like Michigan State and Penn State. I am sure they divert a lot of conversations away from their recent controversies too – albeit for a different reason.

  22. Yorkshire Rose*

    I earned my MBA from Kaplan University. The program is accredited by the ACBSP. It has opened doors for me career-wise that I would not have had otherwise. I think we need to coach people to look for accredited programs, not just “avoid for-profit schools,” because there are good ones out there.

    1. fposte*

      The problem is that accreditation isn’t a guarantee of quality, and there have been accreditation mills as well as diploma mills.

    2. Spreadsheets and Books*

      FWIW, AACSB is considered the “prestigious” or legitimate business school ranking. There are a few others out there, like the ACSBP and IACBE, but they’re considered far secondary to AACSB. Accreditation exists in a wide range of realms, some of which are more credible than others.

      That said, not all employers know that or bother to do that level of research, and most of them are going to assume that your MBA is just as valuable as any other MBA from a non-top 10 school. If you learned a lot and it’s getting you good jobs, that’s really what matters for you. Unfortunately, some employers just throw out all resumes with for-profit positions without any regard for a candidate’s capabilities (mine is one of them).

      1. fposte*

        Accreditation really is inside baseball. In some countries it’s a governmental thing so it’s more consistent, and I think people get the impression it’s a unified standard in the U.S. as well. But of course it’s not; it ranges from accreditation mills to shades of accreditation rigor to accreditation by professional organizations to established degree programs for which there is no accrediting bodies. It’s kind of Wild West-y.

      2. Yorkshire Rose*

        Which is too bad, because there are plenty of people who get into “prestigious” universities based on who their parents are or how much money their family donates to the school.

        Employers who throw out resumes based on where an applicant went to school are doing themselves a real disservice.

        1. Natalie*

          The fact that some people get into high ranking schools on something other than their merits doesn’t change anything about the value (low to zero) of a for-profit college. Most of these are not colleges as much as they are scams to suck tuition money out of people that don’t know better, and its foolish to ignore that. Should I treat a self published novel or a pay-to-play award exactly like the real thing? No, of course not.

          1. Yorkshire Rose*

            I get that, but I think you’re making a really big generalization, and not recognizing that there are for-profit colleges who have valid, accredited programs from which people, like myself, have benefited greatly. My undergrad was a brick and mortar university, and the curriculum for my MBA was just as hard, if not harder, than the curriculum at the brick and mortar university.

        2. Temperance*

          Those people also tend to get jobs through family connections, too. It’s an unfortunate truth that some programs are more highly regarded than others. For-profit schools and online schools aren’t seen as academically rigorous or legitimate programs.

  23. hbc*

    “Don’t laugh–DeVry.” If there’s any follow up, then something like, “It was better back then, but still, it wasn’t the best decision I ever made.”

    But I think the main problem you’re trying to fend off is just impossible to avoid. You assume people who go to for-profits were people who weren’t that bright and didn’t have a better option, so yes, people might make the same judgment you do. You can’t fix that any more than someone who reveals that their child is only 15 years younger than them or they live with their parents or something. There’s no way to get out in front of it (“I adopted my niece!!” “They need caretaking!!”) without looking defensive.

    You just have to accept that there are people out there who, if they have limited info about you, will have an incorrect impression of you. But people who get to know you better will have the bigger picture of your career and intelligence and whatnot, and if you ever naturally got to the point of talking about how you were recruited versus being a college reject, it would be a minor tweak to their image of you, at most.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I don’t think OP needs to be this self-deprecating. They went to a perfectly okay school at the time, I think they should just own it without apologizing.

      1. hbc*

        I don’t see it as self-deprecating or apologizing so much as acknowledging the reputation up front. Plus, maybe it’s a flaw of human nature, but when someone shows they’re aware of the stereotype, it tends to convince people that the speaker doesn’t belong to it.

      1. Julia the Survivor*

        As I mentioned below, I went to DeVry in the 80’s and learned a lot. The classes were excellent.

  24. Recovering academic employee*

    I work in alumni relations for a small, private, liberal arts university in the ’90s-’00s. Its history was one of a regional school where people went so that they could live at home during college. That changed in the ’80s when the school started recruiting across the USA and internationally. I always found it interesting when veteran ’50s alumni and party-hard alumni from the ’60s-’70s would gripe about it being a school they couldn’t get into now if they wanted to.

    I used to respond, “Enjoy the fact that the university and its reputation have grown, because you benefit from it and don’t have to get in again!”

    I guess my point is that it goes both ways.

    1. Jennifer*

      Hah, yeah, my school too. It’s much snootier than it used to be and I couldn’t get in any more either!

    2. RVA Cat*

      Sounds like the one my parents went to. I got in in the 90s but chose to take a full ride at the local state university, which was a trade school back then and still gets some disrespect for that (plus having more minority students than the two big-name state schools).
      (Recovering, if you work for that school, congrats to the Spiders for beating the Rams in both rivalry games this year….)

  25. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

    Funny enough, today on my way to work I found ads for a “Genoa University”. They claim “accessible European excellence”. Hmmm.
    But seriously, sometime ago someone at work asked for help with the coursework for a really expensive private college (Google-campus like private college), and their level was so low we wondered where the money went.

  26. Greg*

    Agree with what Allison said, but more broadly, when defending something potentially embarrassing (especially if you have a perfectly good explanation), your goal should be to come up with a 1-2 sentence summary and then move on. The more you explain, the more it will look like you’re trying to hide something.

  27. AliceW*

    At this point in your career why would you even need to qualify your college choice? I can see if you were a recent graduate, but really? Decades later? Own your decision. It helped you launch a great career.

    1. OP - DeVry Grad*

      It’s never come up in interviews. Mainly in social situations. However, I was conversing with the President of one of my clients, and it came up that he went to a two year tech school (while discussing our kids college choices and how competitive it is now compared to then). I told him I went to DeVry and we high fived and that was that.

  28. Triangle Pose*

    OP I feel for you. As a first generation college student myself, I also didn’t have the connections and network or family to give me good advice about college. I applied to 20 (!) colleges and Universities all over the country (Pepperdine to Harvard) because I literally had NO IDEA where I could/would get in I had no barometer and because I went to a public high school with zero college counseling in the 5th largest school district in the U.S. in the 49th worst state for public education.

    I will say though, do not say “I could have gone to UCxx.” Give Alison’s answer or one of the answers some great commenters gave here. Don’t say that as a 17 year old you could have gone to a UC school. You shouldn’t carry any shame, you have a great career and saying “I could have gone to UCxx” is not how you want to get that across.

  29. please*

    It’s weird that where someone went to school in the 1980s even matters today. When I finished at Harvard in the 1980s, we weren’t talking about where people had gone to school 3 decades previously.

  30. MsChanandlerBong*

    I feel terrible for people who have to worry about this sort of thing. In 2008, I worked for a for-profit college for about five months. When I got the job, I really didn’t know about the differences between a for-profit and non-profit school. The entire time I worked there, I was sick to my stomach over the lies we were supposed to tell people. For example, our boss would have the receptionist print out career profiles from the BLS and highlight certain sentences. The admissions reps were ONLY allowed to read the highlighted sentences when they were meeting with prospective students. So, if you were meeting with someone interested in the phlebotomy program, you’d have to read the part of the sentence that said something like, “You can make up to $50,000 per year…” but NOT the part of the sentence that said “…if you go on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in clinical science.” So we had people thinking that a 9-month phlebotomy/medical assisting program would put them into a $50K per year job when the reality was that phlebotomists in that area were lucky to make $10 an hour. The school also preyed on students with learning disabilities, members of the military (gotta get that sweet GI Bill money), and older women.

    1. Bea*

      I remember looking into a for profit school a decade ago. They were the only ones who would respond to my attempts to understand the admittance procedure (I’m not from a college educated family, I was hopeless but thought I had to go to school yet nobody would help me navigate.)
      However the agreessive sell was too much and I put my head down and taught myself accounting the hard way and didn’t mess up any books along the way, every CPA I’ve worked with was thrilled that I was a natural in the end.

      I can’t imagine dealing with predatory practices like that. I bet it’s like when you get hired to do AR and find yourself aggressively collecting debts for the institutions that buy questionable debts. Iiiiiicky I’m glad you only spent 5 months there!

  31. Julia the Survivor*

    I also went to DeVry in the late 80’s for about a year, I think. The teachers and curriculum were very good and I learned a lot more than in other schools! Unfortunately their structure was so rigid I couldn’t find a way to support myself. They required my classes in the afternoon and early evening – so restaurant work was out, and most other jobs too.
    It’s true they didn’t provide sufficient counseling on loans. I’m still paying on mine.

    1. Julia the Survivor*

      I still remember some of the things I learned there – the book called “Master Students” which was very impressive, my computers 101 teacher who was brilliant and made all the concepts clear, the business teacher who made clear the concept of “unofficial hierarchy”, the psych teacher who answered my questions about a fictional character in a novel.
      Especially the computer class. That’s when I realized I have an affinity for computers and should pursue that type of work, and now I’m an analyst. :)

  32. rj*

    Definitely just focus on what you’ve done since that time. I worked at a small private college at my lastjob, and graduation rate was just over 50%. This is relatively common in mid-ranked regional schools. They also do things that are dishonest to recruit students. Yet, really great students went there. It’s all about what you do with the degree, and what you do after!

  33. Betsy*

    This can happen with public universities too. For grad school, I went to a university that was respectably ranked, perhaps in the top quarter of universities. However, it’s slipped right down in the rankings due to financial issues and some poor management decisions over the last decade or so. I feel like it was definitely not prestigious, back then, but respectable enough, and I know now that people will assume I wasn’t good enough to get into a better program. I’m quite sure I could have done grad school at my undergraduate institution, which is one of the highest ranked in the country, if I had wanted to.

    I guess I’m fairly philosophical about it. I don’t disclaim. I was in a similar situation to you where no one told me institutional reputation counts for a lot and was fairly naive. I just chose that school because I wanted to work with a particular adviser, and to try living in a new city. I’m not sure it’s really hurt my career, but I do believe prestigious universities are much better about networking and putting in a good word for their former students, so I think I really just missed out on the connections mainly.

  34. Delta Delta*

    Fun story. First day at an internship during law school and I’m introduced to another intern doing exactly the same job. He says, “hi, I’m Intern. I went to Harvard and now I’m at Cornell.” Me, “hi, I’m Delta, I went to State U and I’m at Third Tier Law College.” I got to watch him process the fact our educational pedigrees were class-dissimilar and that we would be doing exactly the same jobs as interns.

    To be fair, he turned out to be a very nice cube-mate and we got along smashingly.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      Yes! Glad your cubemate turned out to be a nice person. I’ve encountered a few that looked sideways at my undergrad accounting degree from a small, private, liberal arts college. Ummmm, debits and credits and tax law are the same no matter what school you go to, assuming that you put in the work to learn the material. You just paid 3 times more for your education than I did.

  35. TeacherNerd*

    If someone has no guidance or experience navigating post-high school education, I can understand attending a for-profit. I can’t understand that choice for a graduate program, though, especially given the growing numbers of online programs offered by reputable colleges and universities. I’m genuinely baffled by that.

    1. Emmie*

      Students have more options today than 5-10 years ago. The for profits offer something that’s hard to find at traditional schools: faster pace and degree completion, launch and change speed, and professor buy in. The pace is a big attraction to adult students, and I hope that traditional programs start to match that more often. Also, did you know that many traditional programs (admissions, marketing, course management, course content, and / or professor hiring) outsource parts of their online degree programs to for profit companies, some led by former for profit school leaders? I hesitate saying that here to an audience not favorable to the environment. Yet, it’s true.

  36. Laura*

    My sister went to University of Phoenix to get her accounting degree. I said something the other day about the school and she got defensive and said she had gotten a first class education…a few years ago, she told me that she was considering going back to school to learn some things UoP hadn’t taught her. I’m not so sure her education was that great, because I took an accelerated accounting course at Weber State University (in Ogden, Utah) and mine was class time 9 hours a week for 6 weeks, plus the homework usually assigned for a full 15-week semester; hers were 5 weeks, 1 day a week, with not too much homework.

    Anyway, it seems that the UoP around here isn’t quite as bad as some of the others, because she applied for the MBA program at Weber and was accepted without having to take the GMAT (high GPA). She’s struggling a bit, primarily because she’s with “kids” who just g0t their bachelor’s degrees and the professors plan their curricula around them, and she got her degree several years ago but she has also been working in accounting ever since (and has done payroll and accounts payable since high school) and her work skills and correct grammar and spelling don’t seem to translate to her current classes. She’ll make it, though. Her kids are adults and she’s a hard worker, so she’ll be fine (and since her MBA professors don’t count incorrect grammar and spelling against MBA students, they should give bonus points to those who do know how to write–she could ace her classes).

    1. Laura*

      I forgot the point of all that, which is that she isn’t worried about telling people she graduated from UoP, even though she is getting more defensive now, but in a few years, she’ll be able to tell people she got her MBA from Weber and gloss over the bachelor’s.

      And why are people asking about where someone got their degree when it was 30-40 years ago? Why do they care? Unless they’re like the guy I knew in high school who asked people what they got on the ACT just so he could tell them he got a higher score. I mean something like “Oh, you went to DeVry? That’s too bad. *I* went to Harvard.”

    2. TeacherNerd*

      I’d be wary of claims that teachers plan their curriculum around one particular subset of students; in my own experience teaching college classes at various high schools, colleges, and universities around the U.S., there’s a particular curriculum that needs to be followed. HOW I teach it is us to me, so yes, I can adapt my instruction as necessary, but the curriculum is set by the department. One can’t decide, for example, to teach trig in a pre-algebra class; I don’t teach extensive literary criticism in my intro to writing classes. I’d hope that your sister will be able to navigate how to adapt her writing for different situations (this is taught in basic college writing classes).

      1. TeacherNerd*

        I attended a community college before moving out of state and attending an excellent state university; many friends and classmates who also attended a CC leave off that two-year degree because either they’re embarrassed, or figure the four-year degree supersedes the two-year degree. (By that logic, though, I’d leave off anything below my graduate degrees, so I leave them all on my CV.)

        You’re right, though, in that in an ideal world, after one has acquired a good amount of work experience, where the degree is from is, in many fields, less relevant. In my own field there’s more weight attached to this, but I recognize that this isn’t true for many other fields.

      2. Laura*

        She said that on the first day they all say “Don’t worry about grammar and spelling. I’m looking for reasoning ability.” And I probably didn’t mean curricula, I meant more that they assumed current knowledge of up-to-date laws and practices. Like, for next year, any tax law classes would cover the 2018 tax law changes but she wouldn’t be familiar with them because she doesn’t do business taxes, but a student who had just taken a business tax law class would know all about the current tax laws.

    3. Julia the Survivor*

      “MBA professors don’t count incorrect grammar and spelling against MBA students”
      Wow. That explains a lot. Part of the decline of America, this explains the phenomenon of people with advanced degrees who can’t write an email. Or a memo, or a news article… :o
      I’ve had more than one job where I was asked if I could write. I don’t have a single degree.

      1. TeacherNerd*

        I wonder how many MBA professors actually do that, though, although to be fair, I did one have instructor in grad school (where I was getting an MA in English) tell me that my writing was terrible and convoluted, and that it wasn’t his job to tell me how to write, so one takes these claims with a grain of salt. :-)

      2. Laura*

        Exactly. One of my pet peeves. In the aforementioned accounting class I took, the text book (!) was so bad that I offered to send them corrections–for free– so their next edition would look like an adult had written it instead of a 5th grader from a rural area. They didn’t respond.

  37. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    I hate discussing where I went to school, but it is so extremely rare that I am confronted with that direct question. I wonder why it is coming up in the OP’s conversations? I have found it very easy to avoid giving the name of my college. It has been more than 20 years for me, but even in the first few years after graduation, it didn’t come up in conversation. I would never volunteer the information in any conversation.

    1. Tomalak*

      I agree with this. I graduated 11 years ago and for years now where I went to university has come up only once in a blue moon. I’m very surprised if someone who graduated 30+ years ago is having a different experience. Who are all these people asking a 50 year old about their college days??

  38. Bea*

    This far into life and college still comes up? Wow, this is a perk of not attending any school, it’s rarely a thought let alone a conversation. At 34 I rarely hear anyone talk about where they graduated from. Its just a mention of their degree(s). We are happy not to be lunatics sleeping on dorm room floors in God knows what…I have slept on so many dorm floors in a variety of ranked universities needless to say.

    I feel I have it easier for once, nobody trash talks or looks down on my resume.

    My boss asked me if I would go back in time and go to school instead, I told him truthfully my career wouldn’t be nearly as colorful if that were the case.

    It really grinds my gears that this is a thing that you’re faced with. It seems so ridiculous. I’m glad you’re getting sound advice to make things easier. But also EF anyone who gives a shhht where you got your degree in the 80s, it’s 2018ffs.

  39. Julia the Survivor*

    This is tapping into my feelings about snobs and stuck-up people, not to mention the very destructive focus by employers on degrees.
    Why would anyone you know socially care what college you went to, unless you’re trying to network? I wouldn’t like being around people who are so stuck-up they focus on this in social conversation! I don’t associate with snobs. ;)

    1. Yorkshire Rose*

      I am seeing a lot of elitism in these responses myself. I think my accomplishments should count a lot more than a hiring manager’s opinion of my school choice. I went to a brick and mortar university for my undergrad and did my MBA (while working full-time at a real job, mind you) at a for-profit school. My career has been successful since completing my MBA and frankly, if an employer is going to throw out my resume based on my school choice, it’s definitely not a place where I would want to work.

      1. fposte*

        It’s not about brick and mortar vs. virtual, though; there are nonprofit schools with online programs, have been for decades, and there are also commuter schools and extension schools.

        It’s more about stuff like this:
        “The report, ‘Subprime Opportunity,’ by the Education Trust, found that in 2008, only 22 percent of the first-time, full-time bachelor’s degree students at for-profit colleges over all graduate within six years, compared with 55 percent at public institutions and 65 percent at private nonprofit colleges.” (More recent figures have bumped it up to a 23% graduation rate for the for-profits against 59 and 66 percent for the others.) It’s about the fact that percentages of students able to start repayment on their loans–who are sufficiently equipped by their education to gain employment–are so drastically low that the federal government interceded with guidelines.

        Yes, it’s possible to attend a for-profit school and know more than somebody who attended a nonprofit school. It’s also possible to attend no university at all and know more than somebody who attende either a for-profit or a nonprofit. Yet on average that’s not likely to be true, and a hiring manager is generally going to have to assume the average meaning rather than the exceptional one.

        1. Yorkshire Rose*

          I think what the report glosses over is that low income and minority students are less likely to get those better paying jobs after graduation (in order to pay back those loans) because of classism and racism inherent in the hiring process. You can discriminate all you want in the hiring process, so long as you don’t say the real reason you’re disqualifying someone out loud.

          Furthermore, people who choose the accelerated programs at for profit colleges are also more likely to be single parents working long/odd hours, or minorities working long/odd hours, or both, and have little to no family support in their endeavors, which also contributes to the lower graduation rate.

          It’s an inconvenient truth. Predatory practices exist across all sectors and yes there are for profit colleges who have had their names dragged through the mud and rightly so. But let’s not pretend that there aren’t other factors involved in the lower graduation rates and the fact that people with degrees from for profit colleges aren’t getting those fancy jobs afterwards… there are plenty of folks with 4 year degrees in Philosophy from U of Fancy working as baristas.

  40. OP - DeVry Grad*

    Thanks all for your input, besides Allison’s sound advice, I’m taking away quite a few of your recommendations. (I have not read all the comments yet, I have a full day today, but I will get through all as soon as you can). Some related background info. as to why this is a concern for me – The last few years our oldest was going through the college search. So when talking to other parents etc, where you went to college came up ALOT, for various reasons. It feels like it was the only topic of discussion for years. Nobody that I was friendly with, but I would get the “oh, so you didn’t live in a dorm, belong to a sorority” type of attitude from time to time. Sometimes I get a response like “really? DeVry?” And recently one of our other children started a new school, so it’s come up in the “getting to know you” phase of new relationships.

    1. Julia the Survivor*

      As I mentioned, I also went to DeVry in the 80’s and the classes were excellent! Much better than the 3 or 4 other colleges I attended!
      If anyone tries to look down on you, tell them all you learned, about the good classes, other good things about your experience, look down your nose at them and walk away. :D

    2. Amber Rose*

      That’s useful information in that case though. If you get a stuck up attitude, then that’s not someone you need to get to know!

      Still, I can see how it gets annoying. Hopefully some of the ideas here help you out.

    3. J.B.*

      OP – those people are just rude. I think you should own it, and say “yes I finished school in 3 years and now I…” Working and going to school together are really hard! I wouldn’t be surprised if those label conscious folks have accomplished a lot less than you in their career.

      I am currently taking some community college classes. Some are better than others, but for the most part they provide specific training at 1/10 the price of the nearby universities.

    4. Temperance*

      That sounds really frustrating. It can be really difficult to navigate the class shift from growing up in a blue collar family to being an adult in the middle class, white collar world. I think that the responses above are good for handling this.

    5. Millennial Lawyer*

      I’m sorry. I’m speaking as a younger person, but I know that a lot of parents and their kids buy into the hype about brand name schools, and people are really nervous, and constantly trying to validate their OWN decisions. I went through it when I decided to attend a good school with a full scholarship rather than a “brand name” school.

      I think your decision was based on different information at the time than we have now, and the best thing you can do is smile and say “oh yes, it was a great program in the 80s! sad what’s happened to it now, but i had a great experience.”

      I think you’ll find a lot of people are more judging themselves (“hm, they went there, and are successful? that must mean my preconceived notions about success and education are wrong!”) than you.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah, consider that some of the people giving you a hard time are probably thinking “Oh crap, I’m $300K in debt at BigNameSchool and OP has a better job than me??” (or thinking the same for their kids). Let it roll of your back. Your revenge is to be happy and successful.

    6. Jennifer Thneed*

      Hey OP, I also didn’t do the dorms/sorority thing, because I did community college for 2 years. Then I worked for a couple of years. Then I transferred into a UC as a junior. I never lived on campus at all, and I was enough years older than my classmates to feel a little awkward (but still not old enough to fit in with other returning-to-school types, who were mostly parents).

      So, I guess you might feel a little better, knowing that even students at academic colleges miss some of those experiences. (And yeah, I missed them some at the time, but like you, it’s now decades behind me and doesn’t come up.)

  41. Frankie Bergstein*

    I think being a first-generation college student is really impressive, FWIW! If someone told me that when we met + that they love their job, I’d be very impressed.

  42. LQ*

    I felt like I didn’t have great help and as a first generation college attendee myself I was frustrated. I wasn’t sure the entire time I was in school and for a few years after that I made the right decision. At this point I think it was the right choice, but not because I made the decision well or had good tools to make it. Every year we get high school interns and I always take each one out to lunch and sit down and listen and try to give some guidance about asking for the right kinds of help. It’s a tiny little thing, but I know for me it makes a difference to know that a few people might have better tools than I did. (And in my previous job I did a lot more but I got asked a lot more than I do here so it was easier to help more.)

    Sometimes doing something like that can help with the defensiveness. (I know it did for me because I had some of that as well.)

  43. Julia the Survivor*

    Going to college is an accomplishment. Learning something is an accomplishment. Finishing a degree is an accomplishment!
    If anyone is making you feel defensive, *they* are the bad ones, not you! Don’t let these stuck-up judgmental jerks do that to you! I bet they couldn’t do what you’ve done if they tried!!!

    1. Kali*

      And while we’re on the subject, what exactly is a community college? Do they just have lower entry standards and nicer hours than normal universities?

      1. Bea*

        Most schools are non-profits. With For Profit they are typically vocational schools and are driven to make someone profits instead of just benefiting society with education. High prices, heavily advertised and such.

        Community college specializes in vocational options as well and mostly certificates and associate degrees. You can go there for your core classes and transfer to a 4 year public school (if you are given the right track with transferable credits).

    2. J.B.*

      Typically, 4 year US universities are either state institutions (so have government funding although a lot less than they used to!) or private nonprofit colleges (ranging from Harvard to small liberal arts colleges.) These are mainly geared towards young people graduating high school. For profit schools multiplied in recent years and are more likely to cater to working adults.

      Community colleges are normally two-year programs associated with the local government. They are (often much) lower cost than the 4 year universities, and normally have a mix of vocational instruction and prerequisites for 4 year universities.

      1. Kali*

        It sounds like, in the UK, community college is closer to what we call college, while what you call college is what we call university.

  44. KAG*

    If I were choosing between the final two candidates, both with essentially the same (exhibited) skills and strengths, with the only material difference being that one went to Harvard and one went to DeVry, I would choose the DeVry grad.

    Why? Because I associate going to those types of schools with people who might be naive, or non-traditional students, or not have the advice and support of others… but who are determined enough to try to succeed regardless of their defecits in social and/or financial resources.

    I’m an Ivy grad, btw.

  45. Forrest*

    “I know the prejudice against for-profit schools. In fact, as a hiring manager, resumes with a for-profit had a count against them.”

    Well that’s not hypocritical at all!

      1. Forrest*

        I did. And you didn’t explain why you don’t want to be judge by your choice but are continuing to that to others. Do you plan to change that?

        1. Jenn*

          It’s pretty clear that they do judge the choice, at least somewhat, because of their discomfort and that’s ok – I regret some of my choices too and hope other people don’t make the same mistakes even if I ended up doing well in the end

        2. OP - DeVry Grad*

          It depends on the situation. It’s a count against, but not a firm no in hiring. If she was a recent graduate and no other experience then that will weigh heavily vs someone like me where it’s been a few decades. I haven’t been in the position of a hiring manager in about 7 years and do not see it on the horizon so For Profits grads are safe from me.

  46. Specialist*

    “I went to DeVry back when it had a decent reputation.”
    Keep it short. Longer just sounds like you are embarrassed, making excuses, and makes it weird. You may continue the conversation on for profit schools if you so choose or if they are interested. I would be interested to hear about how the school’s questionable decision making affected you. So if you had a non-judgmental person you could talk about it. Otherwise, you would move on…..”Clearly I’ve built a great resume with my ground-breaking work on rice sculptures and teapot glazing, so it hasn’t been an issue.”

    1. Julia the Survivor*

      The classes I took at DeVry were much better than any other school. If you had a similar experience (or if you didn’t go to any other schools, just that you found the classes to be good and learned a lot of useful stuff), you could mention that!

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Just remember that by all accounts the quality has gone way down these days. You wouldn’t want to be seeming to recommend it to anybody in your life as a good idea, at this point. Alison has a some great points in the linked-to articles underneath this one about the pitfalls.

  47. Noah*

    It doesn’t help that OP’s explanation doesn’t make a ton of sense. It’s true that it would have been pretty difficult to graduate from a UC in three years, but that has nothing to do with “semesters” vs. “trimesters.” It has to do with being able to get into the classes you need at over-enrolled institutions. Plenty of people graduate from “semester” and “quarter” schools in three years. And, somewhat incidentally, schools that call their terms “semesters” typically have three terms per year; schools that call their terms “quarters” have four. (In the late-80s, all UCs except Cal were on quarters.)

    In any event, whatever OP says, I think they should abandon the explanation that they could graduate in three years because of the trimester system. People are going to think that’s a made up excuse.

    1. OP - DeVry Grad*

      DeVry offered eight consecutive full time trimesters which allowed me to graduate in three traditional school years (it sucked going to school during the summer when my friends were off school). I was under the impression at the time that a four year university truly took four years, hence my decision. – But I do see your point.

  48. OP - DeVry Grad*

    Thanks again to all for your supportive comments and taking the time to read and comment. I’ve had some opportunities to mentor students that were like me (first gen) so that’s a bright side of my “college” tenure and experience.

  49. Checkert*

    I went to a for-profit college for my bachelor’s as well. It’s much smaller than DeVry so there’s little name recognition but I had good reasons for going: It hosted both on campus and online classes so I was able to finish a 4-year degree in 2 years and it was a Yellow Ribbon school (the school covers whatever tuition my GI Bill didn’t). I graduated with honors and a year left on my GI Bill to use for grad school! I am now 2 months from finishing my master’s with no debt because I was strategic with my school choices. Do I think that schools should be for-profit? No, that business model doesn’t work without sheisty tactics. Do I regret taking advantage of the course offering situation and still going? NO!

  50. senatormeathooks*

    Just say “DeVry was highly regarded when I was enrolled. Times have certainly changed.”

  51. Liz*

    Depending on the field and your location, prospective employers may be very understanding.

    A friend of mine got a nursing degree at a for-profit school. She lives in a state where public higher education is severely overcrowded. She was a newly-single mother of 3, and she didn’t have 4 years (1 year of prerequisites, 2 years on a waiting list, 1 year in the program) to complete a community college LPN program, or 7 years (2 years of prerequisites, 2 years on a waiting list, 3 years in the program) to complete a community college RN program. The for-profit school cost *a lot* more, but she finished in 18 months, passed her licensing exam, and found a job, so it worked for her.

  52. Tom*

    I can only answer when it comes to technical “degrees” issued by so-called “schools” that are not ABET accredited. For engineering and computer-related fields, the absence of ABET accreditation is a nearly 100% guarantee that your resume/application will be round-filed, getting you only a polite letter wishing you the best in your chosen career. No large U.S. company, looking for technical talent, is going to pay attention to any so-called “degree” issued by an organization that is not ABET accredited. Go to the ABET web site and look up your school to see which programs it has that are ABET accredited. Schools such as DeVry, UoP, (the late) ITT Tech, Remington College, Western Governors University (and their like) have no ABET accredited technical programs. Those institutions are not schools; they are little more than Title-4 loan application companies. For years, I’ve had to turn away applicants, from technical positions, who mention having received some alleged “degree” from such an institution.

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