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HUGE difference in school tuition costs - WHY??

Northeast, AR(Zone 7a)

I've been considering a career in medical coding and billing. A friend is about to graduate from Ultimate Medical Academy with her diploma in it and suggested I take courses online from there. So I checked into it and discovered that it costs $14,500 for an 8 month course to get a diploma. I don't qualify for any "free" money--just loans. And I really didn't want to get myself into debt to the tune of $15,000 without knowing that I'll like the career or even be able to get a job in the field. That's just a lot of borrowed money in an unreliable economy! Of course they gave me all the usual hooplah about how it's an investment in my career, blah blah blah.

Well, someone else had mentioned Penn Foster a few days ago. They also offer a similar online course with a diploma in less than a year. I checked them out online and discovered tuition and books cost...are you ready for this...$998. If you pay it all up front, you get a discount, so you pay $913.

Ok, so what's the huge price difference about?? Why is the tuition and books at one school nearly $15,000 and at the other only $1,000? Is one just greatly overpriced? The course outlines look very similar. I know some people will say that you get what you pay for, but I know all of you are frugal shoppers too. So maybe someone can explain the HUGE difference to me.

The interesting thing is that Penn Foster publicly lists their tuition costs on their website, out in the open. In all the stuff I read at UMA and all the paperwork I filled out, the tuition costs were never displayed openly, unless I overlooked them. They did explain the costs to me on the phone but stated I'd get financial aid to cover most of it. Then I found out the "financial aid" was low interest loans (8%). Of course, they sent me a list of websites where I could try to track down some scholarships that I might qualify for. The Penn Foster school states that they'll give their students 100% financing with NO interest.

Has anyone had any experience with either of these schools or a similar situation? I really can't see that there could be too much difference in the education. The course outlines look similar and the length of time to complete the class is about the same. Investing $1000 in this career doesn't seem like too big a gamble to me. If I don't like, I've at least learned something and I've only lost $1000. I used to spend way more than that yearly on junk food. LOL

Any thoughts or words of wisdom or experience?


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