Now that I have been accepted to grad school on scholarship (which, for a professional program is pretty frickin' awesome), the pressure is totally off to worry about whether my GRE scores were high enough, or whether my personal statement was succinct while showing a command of language without plagiarism, or whether the program really needed another white, middle-class, Midwestern woman. Apparently they were, it was, and they do.
Still, since the first time I registered my GRE prep book on The Princeton Review website, my inbox has been flooded with ads for for-profit schools. Knowing what I wanted to major in, being in contact with a professor and assistant dean at two separate schools in the field, and paying attention to the institutional source of the research I was enjoying is how I narrowed down my choices, but how do you know to do this? I'm lucky in that I have two parents and a spouse who are all involved in higher education and accreditation, and I myself have experience in HR and credentials. Truth is, even going to a directional state school is going to be better from a career perspective than a for-profit online school. Unless, and I can't stress this enough that there is one small exception, you are already employed and you need a Masters degree to advance in the salary schedule. That's it. If you are a teacher who needs to earn a Masters before being granted tenure, go with God, because your next job will be based on your performance in the classroom, not where you received your M.Ed. Want a Ph.D. in a social science? If you get it at the University of Phoenix, don't expect to work for a major research institution or liberal arts college. It's not going to happen. But, if you are an analyst for the government and want to slide up the GS scale, enjoy!
Back to the Princeton Review (not affiliated with Princeton University). If you decide to give them more information for their "Featured Schools from the Princeton Review" function, it's not going to be pretty. First, there are 10 possible subjects for graduate study. My particular program isn't listed. So, I selected Business without a GMAT just to see what pops up. The first 20 results are a Continuing Studies program, 9 are online MBAs, two entries are duplicates, and then you have places known for business education like, Full Sail University. Even doing a more thorough search on their website, getting to the topic that I know I want to study, the top programs in the country are not listed. They don't have to be: the top students in the field know how to find them.
What appears instead is a list of schools with large advertising budgets. Naturally. But, if you were looking at GRE test prep as a first step in going back to school, how would you know otherwise? And, once there, what percentage of your tuition is going to pay for that large advertising budget? Perhaps I've found one way to slow the increase in cost of higher education in the US.