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Intro to Higher Learning For-profit educational institutions are operated by private, profit-seeking businesses, while traditional educational institutions are set up as nonprofit organizations, which use surplus revenues to achieve their goals rather than distributing them as profit or dividends. Most of the recent controversy around for-profit institutions has been the lack of merit-based scholarships, accreditation issues that prevent other schools from accepting for-profit college credits, and the general veracity and tone of their marketing activities. There are also many broader questions about for-profit education on the whole, which have recently garnered attention from politicians and lawmakers. The scope of that discussion, however, is outside of the realm of this article. Today, roughly 9% of U.S. college and graduate students attend for-profit educational institutions. The purpose of this article is not to make a qualifying statement either way about the value of a for-profit education, but rather to explore the issues raised and present the information we’ve been able to gather.
GATHERING INFORMATION Statistics such as the number of students accepted, the percent of alumni job placement, class size, merit- or need-based scholarship availability, majors offered, availability of on-campus housing, and tuition costs are all important factors in selecting your place of learning. With traditional nonprofit colleges, most of this information is easily available online or in prospective student catalogs. Performer reached out to several for-profit schools to learn more about how they stack up next to traditional nonprofit schools. For the most part, the for-profit colleges had the information available and were happy to answer questions for this article; the one exception was Full Sail University, who as of press time were either unable or unwilling to answer any questions regarding their programs.
MUSICIANS INSTITUTE Originally started in 1977 as the Guitar 46 OCTOBER 2012 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Institute of Technology, the Musicians Institute offers a variety of music-related degree programs at its campus of about 1,425 students. While the school accepts roughly 70% of applicants (higher than the estimated one-third accepted by traditional colleges like Berklee College of Music and New York’s New School of Music), it boasts 15 meritbased scholarship awards each quarter – a generous number, especially compared to its competitors. Controversies surrounding the school mainly surround its apparent placement of professionally written reviews on sites like collegeprowler. com. Also, the school is not regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which can make it challenging for students looking to transfer MI credits to other learning institutions. Internet reviews of the school are mixed - some claiming that the administration is weak and unorganized, and the classes aren’t challenging, while others say they were challenged in their particular program and are doing well post-graduation – but the same can be said for schools from Ivy League to local community colleges. Overall, the Musicians Institute has a 40+ year history of music education, and a respectable list of accomplished graduates. Its statistics are comparable to competitive for-profit schools, and are, for the most part, reasonably in line with what is seen from traditional nonprofit institutions, as well.
THE SCHOOL OF AUDIO ENGINEERING (SAE) INSTITUTE With campuses around the globe, the SAE Institute focuses on audio engineering and other creative media programs. The school accepts about half of applicants, although that percentage varies by individual SAE campus location. Tuition costs are comparable to its competitors (roughly $20-$25k), and are less than those of traditional nonprofit colleges (which range from about $30-$40k per year and higher). Alumni job placement is high, and while it varies by campus, the numbers we received were between 65-80% of alumni working in their area of study.
Scholarship opportunities are more limited, however (only two per campus each semester). Most of the controversy surround SAE is regarding the value of the education the school provides. Many students/alumni claim that the courses are not as challenging or in-depth as they are at accredited colleges and universities, and are more vocational in nature (meaning you could learn the same by working in the field for a year or so). The school’s mission does clearly state the level of their courses, though: “We provide specialist vocational and higher education courses worldwide to inspire and develop our graduates.” If you are an individual who needs more direction in order to feel comfortable, then SAE may be a better fit for you than for a person who can spend time learning on their own. SAE has been in business since 1976 with campuses in Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, the Middle East and Africa. For students looking to sharpen their technical skills in creative media, SAE offers learning programs that appear to be comparable to competitive for-profit institutions.
FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY With over 16,000 students and 37 degree programs, Full Sail University offers higher education in the areas of entertainment and media. Comparing Full Sail to traditional colleges and universities is difficult, because the university has chosen not to make the necessary information easily available to prospective students. The Performer staff reached out to try and learn more, but was denied any information about alumni job placement, percentage of applicants accepted, merit-based scholarship availability, or class size. Full Sail is aggressive in its marketing, and its flashy website boasts of its alumni achievements. The school lists former Performer cover artist Marc Broussard among its graduates, along with musicians and engineers involved with high-profile films and entertainers. In the absence of more statistical information, it is hard to make a determination about how a Full Sail education compares to its competitors or traditional higher learning institutions.
MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION FOR YOU There is a lot of conflicting information about for-profit education, and making a decision can be difficult, especially with the significant amount of money at stake. Ultimately, the value will be determined mainly by the individual student. Personally, studying music at the college level was very important, and choosing the right school was something I gave a lot of care. My experience at Berklee College of Music was an excellent one, and I am proud of what I learned during my time there. -Pamela Ricci is an artist manager and consumer marketing manager in the Boston area.
featuring AG (Adrianne Gonzalez)