Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fear of an Overpriced Paralegal Degree

Liz Pulliam Weston's Money Talk column this week in the Los Angeles Times caught my eye, because not long ago I blogged about for-profit paralegal programs. Questions about these programs, especially some of the online ones, come up frequently in paralegal group discussions in various social media venues, including LinkedIn and listservs. Sometimes, by the time the poster starts asking questions, he or she is well into the program and has already incurred significant student loan debt, like the paralegal student in Weston's column.

The "very worried" student asks two excellent questions that should be answered before enrolling in any paralegal program, "Is this debt worth it, and is the school I'm attending credible enough for employment?"

Weston doesn't mince words. She tells the student she's right to worry, and that she's paying many times what her degree would have cost at a local community college. Weston's answer is well worth reading in its entirety, but she closes her advice with:

You might want to talk to your local junior college to see whether any of your credits will transfer and whether you might be able to finish up your education for less. If not, lean on your school's placement office to help you find a job. You're graduating into a tough economy with an overpriced degree of unproven value, so you're going to need all the help you can get.

As a blogger, I occasionally get emails from readers asking about particular paralegal programs. I also get email from some of the programs themselves, asking me to post links to their sites. I tell both the students and the marketers pretty much the same thing: I'm not in a position to recommend most paralegal programs, other than the ones I'm familiar with in North Carolina.

I have a two-year paralegal degree from the N.C. Community College system, I taught in the system for five years, and I know many graduates of the program who've been hired and are successful as paralegals. To be fair, I know some who haven't been as successful, often for reasons having nothing to do with the program.

But Weston's column includes some scary statistics about for-profit colleges in particular, and potential students should pay heed and do their research before signing on any dotted lines. It may be the most worthwhile homework they do in their academic and paralegal careers.

If any readers have feedback about for-profit paralegal programs they would be willing to share, I know that others would benefit from your experiences.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Related Post: Do Your Homework Before Enrolling in a For-Profit Paralegal Program

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