Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Kristie Loular, May 6, 2020.
Is this a good school and can you get a job right out of school? I'm in GA. TIA
I wasn't aware that Penn Foster had a degree in Medical Billing. I thought they only offered diplomas and/or certificates for that subject. In any case, almost no earned credential is a guaranteed ticket to a job right out of school, but mileage varies based on degree type and school profile.
The school is nationally accredited by the DEAC, and has been around under different names since 1890. It doesn't have the worst reputation, but it also flies under the radar more than many other schools which is interesting considering how much they've advertised over the years. However, they have had some public blowups just like many other schools. They offer a self-paced mostly independent program, so self-motivation and the ability to see things through are necessary to be successful.
One other thing I almost forgot to mention: Penn Foster's Career School is regionally accredited. This could be important for those looking for a diploma or certificate from the school. But, the Medical Billing program and the Healthcare Management program are both offered through Penn Foster's College which is nationally accredited.
Penn Foster is quite good at what it does, which is supplying fairly low cost courses, career diplomas and degrees. The degree track is certainly more involved and requires you to be self-motivated, because there is not a lot of hand holding from PFC. Most of the complaints that are on the internet seem to be from people that underestimated the time and commitment that would be involved, signed a student contract and then tried to back out of it too late or thought they wouldn't have to do college level work. Should you wish to sift through some of the nonsensical verbiage that comes from these "students" it's easy enough with a quick google search. But this is how it will be when you have open admissions. To me though, as a life long learner, they have been a great resource and I'm currently working on my second bachelors with them in my free eighth semester. In the Healthcare Management associates degree track you can also get the last semester free by paying for a minimum of 30 semester hours prior to taking your 4th/last semester. The tuition varies as to how you pay: upfront, auto-pay or monthly check. My tuition averaged about $75 per credit hour over the last 5 years with the typical PFC average about $79. I seem to be an atypical student due to the fact that most start but do not finish (the percentages of every degree course were at one time listed on the consumer section of their webpage but have since been taken off). So before you commit yourself I'd suggest taking a personal inventory and making sure that you will be able to see it through financially, timewise, and have a support network from family and friends. Because life has a tendency to get in the way of the best laid plans and study time is absolutely necessary to pass your courses. And BTW, everyone complains about the English Composition course that's required so it may behoove you to get your college writing skills up to par, prior to starting, so you don't hit a wall. Not trying to scare or dissuade you, just trying to give you an honest opinion from someone that's had a lot of experience with PFC. Good luck.
Those programs are accredited as vocational programs, not college programs. So being regionally accredited has pretty minimal utility. It doesn't really sway employers one way or the other for the types of programs being accredited and there is no credit transfer potential.
And while the college is NA, some of its courses are ACE recommended. So an associates or an undergrad certificate could potentially parlay into a degree at one of the big three.
I have taken college English, psychology, history etc from a community College already. I had to drop it when I became extremely ill with lupus. Im better and ready to start another path being that an RN degree isn't feasible to me.
I appreciate your detailed answer and your very realistic description and advice.
I'm going to enroll.
The programs I'm looking at are diploma or associates programs.
There is nothing in the name recognition of Penn Foster that will directly lead to a job. If the job you are applying for requires a diploma or associates degree in the subject you are looking at then it likely checks a box that will make you eligible. Have you looked at the specific job you want and verified what the requirements are for hiring? If so, have you given a potentially employer a call to see if there are any programs/schools they specifically look for?
Penn Foster is a legitimate school but is on the bottom rungs of prestige in the academic world as far as formally accredited schools go. With that said, they are cheap and there is potentially tons of utility value if it meets your needs.
Generally, an employer may not make a big deal about the accreditation of a career diploma, but there is always one out there that might and a person could just luck out and run into that one. I would just stick to an accredited school for anything dealing with a career move unless it's a subject that no accredited school handles.
There could be some transfer potential because some of the courses are shared between Penn Foster's schools. For example, back when their customer service course was active with ACE it was shared with several programs across Penn Foster's schools (still is, it's just no longer active with ACE). If a program is from a regionally accredited school, it's going to make it easier for the student to transfer credit(s). I'll also point out that some people have successfully gotten credit for Ashworth's diploma courses, none of which are ACE evaluated and are all entirely nationally accredited programs, so in Penn Foster's case a student has a much better chance. We're talking usually only 3 credits, 6 at the most, but it's still something.
If we were talking academic degrees I would agree. In talking about the disciplines covered by career diplomas at PF, I disagree. Most trade schools outside of community colleges are not accredited. They don't award degrees. They award diplomas. They also work to place students so that they can boast a successful alumni base and attract more students. Some are better than others. I assure you that the graduate of a locally based trade school with established relationships will trump the graduate of Penn Foster's Electrician course every time and in every instance. Employers of the trades care that the student can do the job not what backs their diploma.
At best many of these schools, including the vo-techs or BOCES (in the case of New York), have accreditation through purely vocational accreditors. The ones we never talk about because they, at best, accredit associates degrees. We cannot apply the same logic to these programs as academic programs. Otherwise we're saying Penn Foster is a safer bet because it's RA than the local, publicly operated, vocational school that also trains carpenters but is either NA or simply approved to operate in the state.
For some programs? Yeah sure. Maybe childcare it could matter to some employer. But the bulk of PF's programs are trade focused and the RA vs NA debate has even less relevance there than it does in the rest of the world outside of this forum.
Just like we say you need to focus on whether a program qualifies you for a license to work in the state where you want to work. This is similar. You should be choosing a trade program based on placements and local reputation rather than accreditation, IMHO.
It makes sense that a local ground-based trade school that people in the area are familiar with is going to have cachet in a person's local area since the same thing can be said for many colleges, but I was looking at this purely from an online learning standpoint. With all the accredited options available online there are lots of places one could go and maybe save some money through comparison shopping. But sure, if they can do something local, I would bet Local University that is known and familiar is going to ring better than Penn Foster or "California Vocational School", especially when the student lives in, like, Ohio or something.
OK, but while what you're saying about the credit may be technically true, let's not get people's hopes up too high. Some of those diploma grads have had problems getting credit even from Ashworth's "partner" schools because of the way the programs have been put together. Things have improved because they've made some changes over the years such as actually counting some diploma programs for credit within their own school, but you don't want to assume Penn Foster is operating exactly the same way and for every program. They have been working together since Penn Foster bought Ashworth and each have been sharing the best parts of each other's systems to try to improve, in fact some Penn Foster personnel has been working in Ashworth's systems in order to get a handle on them and vice versa since the COVID situation hit, but that doesn't imply parity, it's still a work in-progress. It's not just about accreditation, because at the end of the day no institution is going to guarantee transfer credit outside of a clearly defined agreement between schools, and even then there are caveats. So I get what you're saying, but I just want to point out that it's not a slam dunk. I'm sure you know that as all of us who've been here for a awhile do, but a passerby may not.
My point is that this isn't a university and the programs are not resulting in academic credentials. If you're being hired as an electrician in Ohio, it doesn't matter if you went to California Vocational School as long as you have worked as an electrician. Let's look at PF's career diploma programs:
ABC® Certified Wedding Planner
Auto Repair Technician
Certified Personal Trainer
Child Care Professional
Computer Graphic Artist
Desktop Publishing and Design
Diesel Mechanics/Heavy Truck Maintenance
Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor
Drafting with AutoCAD®
Dressmaking and Design
Furniture and Cabinet Maker
Guest Service Agent
Home Health Aide
Home Remodeling and Repair
Jewelry Design and Repair
Locksmith & Home Security Technician
Medical Administrative Assistant
Medical Billing and Coding
Motorcycle Repair Technician
Occupational Therapy Aide
PC Maintenance and Repair
Pharmacy Technician Professional
Physical Therapy Aide
Small Business Management
Small Engine Repair
Travel and Tourism Specialist
You're biggest obstacle to acceptance for most of these certificates has nothing to do with accreditation or the fact that Penn Foster isn't your "local" school. It's that these are subjects that you learned via correspondence where hands on learning is necessary. My point is not to say that Penn Foster having RA is bad. My point is to say that if you want to become an auto mechanic, what matters is that you are getting good training that might reliably result in a job placement because you had hands on experience. Graduating from the Jiffy Lube basic technician program puts a candidate higher than a PF graduate in terms of how many times you were required to physically do some repair or maintenance to an actual car during the course of your program as a condition of graduation.
The programs they have that are actually approved for licensure such as their vet tech program (NA) or, in many states, their optician program have value because they possess the relevant programmatic accreditation.
As with therapy or nursing programs the question isn't "Is this accreditation good?" The question is "Will this program help me to achieve my goal of being an X in Y." A place can have bulletproof accreditation and still not qualify you for a license in New Jersey and if you want to work in New Jersey, that's a problem.
I see your point on that. My position on that sort of thing has always been that hands-on practice for jobs that are largely hands-on is necessary. Generally speaking, licensing boards tend to agree and won't license a person without it. Medical Billing isn't a licensed profession and each person will have to be trained on the workings of the office they're hired into anyway, so there would be nothing to worry about there. I hear that some states require a license to manage in certain types of healthcare facilities, but I don't know how many states have that requirement. My worry would be with a profession that doesn't require a license and could be a danger to the public. I'm not denigrating Penn Foster or any other school that offers these kinds of programs, but I can see some possible issues.
There are a number of diploma grads from there who act as if they earned a degree. I'm not saying finishing a diploma is not an accomplishment, and depending on the subject it could take a while. But I'm speaking squarely about how some of them have behaved in public. I never cared for that. I call it the Tyra Banks Syndrome after how she showed-off like she was a degree-holding graduate of Harvard.
I totally agree. I personally had an interest in becoming a holistic therapist for personal reasons, I made the mistake of taking a correspondence course and later registered at a local school with actual people and labs and on hands training.
There are some things you cannot learn online, you can learn accounting, finance, math, computer programming but it is not so easy to learn how to become an electrician, an electronics repair man, mechanic, etc by reading books at home.
Sometimes you have to just bite the bullet and enroll in a face face training school.
I agree. I would add, though, that I certainly believe that even those professions can benefit from online learning to supplement. I know a handful of technicians who earned their first position after a correspondence course. But that was because the correspondence course gave them basic familiarity with the terms, concepts and tools. It made them attractive hires for entry level electronics positions when those were much more commonplace.
I have not heard of electricians or carpenters putting that much stock into correspondent graduates using the same theory. I think if you went to school for any helping profession there are certainly things you could learn via distance learning.
To put it another way, vocational DL seems great as an intro to get you ready for an entry level OJT type of situation or it benefits B&M trained professionals. That space in the middle is a weak point, IMO.
It's also a shrinking niche. Why, exactly would one go to PF for the jewelry repair course? I've seen the books. They're old and mostly black and white. You can get many more hours of well produced videos for free on YouTube. Go back a few years and PF offered something that you might not be able to get elsewhere. Now, you can get the knowledge for free as long as you're OK not having a pretty certificate to go along with it.
My father used to say, a correspondence course is the most expensive way of buying a book. As most of these professions are not regulated (except electrician), the diploma is not needed. It reminds me of the guy last week that wanted to take a PhD in Metaphysics and found out that the same learning can be found in a book or youtube for free. The idea to get a college diploma in wedding planning or floral design is a bit like the person that wanted to get a PhD in cryptozoology (maybe a dissertation in Chupacabra or big foot?). Nothing wrong with these fields but a degree or college diploma in these fields really mean nothing.
Most of them don't know any better. It's not a degree, not even close, but it's something to feel good about. When I see them online celebrating, I just smile and keep moving.
Now Tyra Banks, she just has a massive ego and a desire for self-aggrandizement. No wonder she could never keep a man.
I have a friend who did the medical billing and coding diploma and the electronic health records certificate through Ashworth College (Penn Foster's sister school). The school paid for the prep classes for the 2 certifications for those fields as well as the cost of the certifications. She said it's not correspondence it's a fully online program. After she took the courses she passed the certification exams on the first try each and about a month later landed an at-home job as a medical coder for a hospital and makes about $40k a year. She's been doing it for 2 years so far and really seems to like it. For career schools, programmatic accreditation is more important than regionsl or national. And the certifications at the end are key. Those hold more weight than most other things.
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