Once one of America’s largest for-profit college chains, Corinthian Colleges, announced Sunday that it would shutter all remaining campuses, leaving approximately 16,000 students with an uncertain future.
Now those students must figure out what to do with the academic credits they have accumulated at Corinthian. It’s not clear whether other for-profit colleges will accept Corinthian credits — especially now that the chain has been shuttered.
It will be particularly tough to transfer credits because of the way for-profit colleges are accredited.
While most public and nonprofit colleges are regionally accredited, for-profit colleges tend to be nationally accredited. The difference, according to an article in Academe magazine, is that national agencies “use quantitative criteria like completion and job-placement rates,” while regional agencies “consider factors like shared governance and academic freedom.”
“Because the criteria are different, the credits rarely transfer,” Academe notes.
Corinthian students now have a difficult decision. They must “either start over from scratch, or go through the time-consuming process of transferring credits that may never be recognised by other institutions,” as the Los Angeles Times notes.
This problem of transfering nonprofit college credits is not unique to the Corinthian students. In 2010, Joshua Pruyn, a former admissions representative at the for-profit Westwood College, recounted in a Senate testimony how staff were trained to tell prospective students they’d have no trouble transferring their credits:
In training we were told that, from the student’s perspective, there was no significant difference between national and regional accreditation. When Westwood announced they had applied for regional accreditation, I started investigating and discovered there was a big difference. Not only was there a higher standard of education for regionally accredited schools, but there was also the huge issue of transferring credits. Since Westwood was not regionally accredited, most traditional schools would not accept the school’s credits or allow students to pursue an advanced degree. This meant that most Westwood students would not be able to transfer their credits to other colleges. Yet, for months I worked under the impression there wasn’t much difference between regional and national accreditation.
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