As tuition and student fees at U.S. colleges and universities have risen sharply over the past decade, Nassirian said it would be difficult to use Full Sail as an example of schools can provide affordable, high-quality education in a down economy.
Full Sail’s video game arts program, for instance, saw 14 percent of its students graduate last year. A degree in video game arts would cost $81,000. While other Full Sail programs have higher completion rates, all of its programs are many times more expensive than nonprofit and public universities.
“Full Sail is a cure worse than the disease, because it vastly outstrips costs in every way,” Nassirian said. “And the issue is not necessarily that it’s expensive—sometimes paying a little extra is well worth it. It’s that [Full Sail] is extremely expensive and has a fairly miserable track record when it comes to outcomes.”
Saenz said he knew a film degree from Full Sail—a school specializing in film, video game development, sports management, and a laundry list of related fields—would cost $75,000. His post-graduation loan payments, however, leave little leeway in his monthly expenses.
“My student loan payments are surprisingly high. It is very stressful thinking about the fact that I will have to make high payments every month for a long period of time, but at the end of the day, it was my decision to get a degree,” Saenz said.
Dissatisfaction with Full Sail sparked a website called Full Sail Review, which seeks to advise prospective students before they commit to attending the for-profit university. The site rails against the school for deceptive recruitment practices and the poor quality of Full Sail’s online course selection, among other complaints.