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Education After High School

Post-secondary education is a big investment of time, money, and effort, so choose your school wisely. Choosing a school is one of the most important decision you will make in high school. Paying for school comes closely after. The U.S. Department of Education offers a variety of student financial aid programs to help students pay for school.

It's up to you to look at schools. Just because a school participates in the federal student financial aid programs does not mean the DOE has endorsed their quality of education. The Department of Education does not approve a school's curricula, policies, or administrative practices.

What questions should I ask a school?

Basic questions to ask are:

  • Does the school offer the major and courses I want?
  • Do I meet admissions requirements?
  • Does the school offer high quality education at a reasonable price?
  • Does the school offer services I need and activities I'm interested in?
  • What is the job placement rate for recent graduates?

Most of this information is in a school's catalog or introductory brochure so grab a few brochures during a campus visit. Also, the reference section of your local library has many books with the same information.

You can also find information on the Internet. If you know someone who attends or attended a school you're considering, ask that person their opinion of the school.

Ask about the school's accreditation, licensing, student loan default rate, and campus security.

  • Find out the school's loan default rate. Default is when federal student loans are not paid back on time. It is more difficult to get financial aid from programs with a high default rate.
  • Get a copy of the school's campus security report. The campus security report provides information on the school's campus security policies and crime statistics. Schools must publish a campus security report every year and distribute it to all current students and employees of the school. In addition, schools must provide a campus security report, provide a summary of the report, and explain how to get a copy to students and Parents who ask for this information. Check online to review crime statistics for many colleges, universities, and career schools.
  • Talk to a high school counselor, local employers, and the state higher education agency. Check if complaints about the school have been filed with the Better Business Bureau. Also, contact these organizations if you have a complaint about the school.

Find out the school's job placement rate (the percentage of students who are placed in jobs related to their field of study).

  • If the school advertises its job placement rates, those rates have to be published in most recent employment statistics, graduation statistics, and any other information necessary to back up the information. This information must be available during the admissions period. Also, check with local employers to see whether they have hired graduates from the school.

Find out about the school's refund policy.

  • If you enroll but do not start classes, you can get most of your money back. If you start attending college but leave before completing your coursework, you can get some of your money back.

Find out about financial aid availability at the school.

You have the right to receive the following information from the school:

  1. The location, hours, and counseling procedures at the financial aid office
  2. What financial assistance is available, including information on all federal, state, local, private, and institutional financial aid programs
  3. What the procedures and deadlines are for submitting applications for each available financial aid program
  4. How the school selects financial aid recipients
  5. How the school determines your financial need
  6. How the school determines the type and amount of assistance in your financial aid package
  7. How and when you'll receive your financial aid
  8. How the school determines evaluates satisfactory academic progress, and what happens to your federal financial aid if you're not making satisfactory academic progress
  9. If you're offered a Federal Work-Study job, your hours, your job requirements, your pay rate, and payroll procedures

Find out about the school's return-of-aid policy.

  • If you receive federal student aid from any of the programs mentioned in this publication (except for Federal Work-Study), and you withdraw from school, some of that money cannot be returned by you or your school. Also, even if you don't finish your coursework, you'll have to repay the loan funds you received, unless the schooled returned any amount.

Find out the school's completion and transfer-out rates.

  • A school is required to disclose the percentage of its students who complete the school's programs and the percentage of students who transfer out of the school.

Get a copy of the school's "equity-in-athletics" report.

  • Any coeducational school with federal student aid and with an intercollegiate athletic program must prepare an equity-in-athletics report with financial and statistical information for men's and women's sports. This information makes students aware of a school's commitment to providing equitable athletic opportunities for its students.

Compare your anticipated debt to your expected income post-graduation. If you borrow money to pay for all or a portion of your education, you'll need enough money to repay your debt. Check the web or visit the library to learn more about the starting salary for careers you are interested in. The U.S. Department of Labor publishes the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the Occupational Outlook Handbook which also have information.

Last Reviewed: February 2017

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