Is Full Sail University a Scam?

full sail university reviewFull Sail University is a private college specializing in art, entertainment and media degrees, including but not limited to game design, mobile development, film recording arts and even internet marketing.

They were established in 1979 and are located in Winter park, Florida. However, while they maintain an on campus population of just over 21,000 students per year, they also provide degree programs that are entirely online, giving students the option to attend FUll Sail virtually from home.
All that being said, there school has gotten a bad reputation, and many will go so far as to say that Full Sail University is a scam. But is that true?

In this article I’ll investigate the reasoning behind some of these claims and perhaps give you a better idea if you should consider attending or take your money elsewhere.

For-Profit vs Nonprofit Colleges

The biggest complaint people have with this college is that unlike most major universities in this country which are non-profit (think your typical state university or community college), Full Sail is for-profit, meaning they operate more like a business and come with investors who expect to make money.

Non-profit colleges receive their money from a variety of sources including donations, the government and of course tuition fees. However, a large portion of the money goes back into the school, whereas for-profits are focused on profiting for themselves and shareholders.

This translates into non-profit schools being much more affordable, as for-profits can’t rely on third party sources to keep tuition prices lower, therefore they won’t skip a beat to raise them in order to increase profits.

In addition to the price difference, for-profit schools are also more specialized, offering tailored courses for specific degree tracks (like vocational schools) whereas non-profits typically offer a variety of classes and degree tracks within each school..

Accreditation issues – Regional vs National

The second issue lies within accreditation. While Full Sail is an accredited school, they’re not regionally accredited like most other schools, they’re nationally accredited with the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

Basically the issue comes into play when students want to transfer colleges or continue their education with a master’s degree program at another school. While the credits can transfer between national and regional accreditation, it is more difficult and often times schools simply won’t recognize the credits at all. This means your options for transferring schools are very limited and you may have to retake the classes at another school.

This is one of the most common complaints about Full Sail, (aside from the high pricing and for-profit standing) but obviously is only an issue if you plan to transfer or attend a masters program. Knowing what you want BEFORE you enroll is crucial.

Tuition cost

The tuition costs of FSU are pretty high. The prices vary by degree program, but for an associates program that can be completed in 1 year (the programs are accelerated) the approximate price is 28,000 for online and 31,000 for on campus. For a 2 year bachelor’s program, the cost ranges from 54,00 (online) to 74,000 (on campus).

There’s also an additional free not included for many of the degree programs that can add as much as 3,000 to the price (this includes things like software, equipment and a Mac laptop, depending on your degree program).

Considering these are 1 and 2 year programs, that’s quite a hefty price tag if you ask me.

Specialty degrees – know what you want out of it

Like mentioned earlier, Full Sail is a specialty school that offers degree programs within the entertainment arts such as game design, computer animation, mobile development, recording arts, film and web design and development (plus more).

They even offer speciality online programs like web marketing, although if you read my article about internet marketing degrees, I wouldn’t recommend them because in many cases they’re just overpriced and unnecessary.

The most important thing is to know exactly what you want to do. From there, make sure you properly research to know if you 1) actually need a degree for your desired job, 2) if there are real jobs available for newer graduates within the field and 3) if there are jobs available within the geographic range you are willing to live in.

full sail university scamFull Sail and the BBB

It is worth noting also that there’s been quite a few complaints filed with the BBB about Full Sail. Most of them seem to be misunderstandings in communication between the student and guidance counselors, sort of a he said/she said type deal… but you can give them a read here if you want to read them in detail.

The bottom line – scam or not?

While many like to classify Full Sail as a scam of sorts, I don’t know if I’d really take it that far. They’re a legit business operating perfectly legally. The most important thing you can do is properly educate yourself on how exactly the university works, what it offers and if it’d be a good fit for you and your needs.

I can tell you that it’s most definitely is not a good fit for many, particularly those looking to transfer later on, those who aren’t willing to complete their education at such an accelerated rate or who aren’t willing to pay the high tuition price.

But the fact can’t be ignored that the less than desirable job market and rising tuition prices have left many graduates of any college in massive debt and flipping burgers. Trust me, as a bachelor’s degree holder myself who couldn’t find a job after graduation I know the struggle is real.

There’s many who want to blame Full Sail for not being able to find a job after graduation, and I’m not sure placing the blame on the college is the right move. The struggle exists no matter what school you attend. As long as people are willing to pay the sky high prices of tuition, universities like this will stay in business.

Not sure about Full Sail?

There’s tons of resources out there to help you continue advancing your education – they can help you learn what you might actually want to do so you don’t have to waste college credits “figuring it out”, teach you valuable skills to build your resume, and in some cases you can transfer the credits you earn to a university. Check out my online learning directory to see my recommended providers.

You might also be interested in checking out my #1 recommended training platform to learn how to build your own business and earn sustainable, passive income.

About the Author Wendy

Wife, Mother, Entrepreneur. I've been making money online for the past 5 years with online marketing and blogging, and I love helping others learn to do the same. You can read my full story here

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21 comments
Meaghen Lottman says

UUUHHHGGG! I am starting classes at Full Sail in 3 days, Now, I am torn beyond belief, I really do feel that the structure of learning style here is perfect for me and the ease of online classes that are actually relevant is what I am looking for, I can see the argument for both sides of you get what you put into and the the complaints about students as teachers and the exorbitant fee – it really does seem that they just set the price at the maximum allowed loan value, which is already kind of pissing me off as i worry every second about not being able to pay it back with a job in my field – I know that it is going to help me focus a little bit and give me the push I need to get some shit done and work on a goal path – add some structure to my job path. I already have a lot of the skills necessary and work experience in the field, I am looking to add an extra layer of credential – it worries me some people won’t take the degree seriously since it comes from this place but i figure its up to me to show that I made something of it. – I am worried mainly that if I want to get a higher degree then I am screwed. I wish I could see the future for both of these paths – if it split right now and on one side I went and on the other I didn’t – HHMMM

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MW says

I used to work at Full Sail and I felt my perspective was warranted when I stumbled on this site.

First, you get out of your education what you put in. No school can make a bad candidate enticing for an employer to hire and a great candidate can increase their attractiveness with an education but don’t necessarily need it. Most of us attended school for the structure and organization.

That being said, over the significant amount of years I worked at Full Sail I watched the company focus shift from the students to their profit-margin at the expense of the student. Many of the faculty there felt as I did but were afraid to speak up as they didn’t want to lose their own jobs.

I tried for many years to change the company from the inside but eventually they tired of my efforts.

On a Monday at a meeting with the VP of Education (and his wife- who worked under him) and the dean of the Game Development degree I was appalled at what I heard they had planned for another degree. I spoke out. I implored them to change direction because what they planned was both unethical toward students and lacked integrity for what it would put the faculty through. That was on a Monday.

On the very same Friday I was called into HR and fired.

The point I’m trying to express is that even though there are many who will not voice their concerns out of fear for their own livelihood I do believe that many of the faculty there do take pride in their work and are trying to do the best with what they have. No place is perfect and many companies put short-term gains first and still can offer a quality product because the employees work hard for the customer.

So before taking to heart all of the venting maybe take the time to examine all of the facets of such a hefty decision about your future and remember that if you work hard and focus on being the best candidate it doesn’t matter if you go to a reputable school or a degree-mill- you will still find success.

Just my 2c.

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    Wendy says

    Hey thank you so much for your valuable insight as a former Full Sail employee. It’s sad that they’re putting profits before students, Althought completely unfair they fired you for speaking up! I don’t think any school should be that way however private institutions have to look out for their bottom line, I guess. (Not saying I think it’s fair, but that is unfortunately the reality) Good to know there are plenty of teachers there doing the best job they can.

    I also very much agree that it is much more the product of the individual and hard work that gets them through and into a decent job after graduation than the university itself. It might be true that certain Ivy league school might make a candidate stand out, but when it comes down to the difference between an average state university, local college vs Full Sail – I don’t think anyone doing the hiring is really going to care about that.

    Anyway, thanks again for dropping your 2 cents!

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Eli says

I’m currently enrolled at FSU for their online Creative Writing BA and my experience so far has been nothing short of amazing. I love my assignments and the professors are great. A couple of the classes actually required us to turn in our best fiction to a magazine (both of mine were accepted). I’m wary of the price, the number of instructors who are FSU alumni, and the lessons that have links to articles and videos that I could have searched on my own for free, but I did my research before enrolling and took a chance. I think anyone enrolling in any college is taking a chance, some more than others. Mine happens to be a big one. But nothing negative has happened yet. I’d also like to add that I have a focused goal of working in film and television writing and becoming a published author, and the school encourages keeping focus like that. If you’re looking to enroll just to see if it’s something you would like to maybe have as a career someday, don’t do it. Despite having a focused goal, the program teaches you lots of different niches in writing, like essays, short stories, scripts and more. So if you don’t know exactly what you want to do after graduation, but you definitely know you want to write, this program is great because it sort of covers all the bases. It’s not like a conveyor belt where you go through college to work one type of job for the rest of your life. So in conclusion, if you are dedicated to your passion of writing (I don’t have any knowledge of the other programs and honestly I hear the gaming program is terrible) then this could work for you. Don’t rely solely on the school to turn you into a great writer and expect these marvelous things to happen once you graduate. You have to put in the work, and it will be returned to you.

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Ignacio says

I just applied to full sail for bachelor’s in creative writing and hoping to go from that to master’s still in full sail is that a good idea? I’m new and all I want to do is be able to write I’m passionate about it and I just want a college to give me that degree without wasting my time with other classes. Is there any other schools besides full sail that can help someone like me. Please let me know

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    Eli says

    I’m currently in the Creative Writing program at Full Sail, so I can tell you a bit about it. I’m in my third semester, and so far, every class I’ve taken has been nothing short of great. I’ve learned a lot and am consistently challenging my writing abilities with the assignments they give. There are a little too many links in the lessons for my liking, giving me the impression that I can just google all of this information for free, but we also read plenty of stories and books that are sent to us (I’m an online student) and we have discussions about those stories, and our own. It’s not like majoring in English or Journalism at a “normal” college; once you start your core classes, writing is all you learn about, which is good in my case because I don’t want unnecessary classes. Students are required and encouraged to discuss and critique each other’s writing, and the instructors critique as well. Lots of the professors are Full Sail alumni, which kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth, like they’re just trying to pay off their debt, but the instructors are actually required to have experience in their field before teaching, and every professor I’ve had so far has been great. It is expensive and I get nervous about the loans I have and how I will pay them back and if I’ll find a job in my field, but pretty much every college student thinks about those things. The courses teach you pretty much everything about writing, but you get what you put into it. Do the work and engage, and it will be handed back to you. Sometimes even I still feel uneasy about my decision to enroll in this school, but it’s been almost a year since I started and I haven’t had anything negative happen yet, so just listen to the doubts you’re having and determine if they’re coming from you or other people. I hope this helps!

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Steve says

All these for profit, 1-800 schools are scams. They were created to find a legal way to trick people out of their money in the exact same way a con artist works, by appealing to their greed to get them to make a bad choice without critical thinking. The allure is a promise of a fancy career and how your going to be making all this money in a job we’ll place you in etc. They then get these people to go out and borrow as much money as the banks will give out, and then turn it all over to them. The “price” is usually set by the maximum amount that can be borrowed for student loans and they get a product for tens of thousands of dollars that is inferior to the education at a local community college for a tiny fraction of the cost. These schools don’t have REGIONAL ACCREDITATION which is the only form that really counts. “National Accreditation” are just organizations the scammers themselves have set up to provide them with impressive sounding credentials to the suckers who sign up. None of these credits can be transferred to a real school and employers don’t respect these 1-800 fake school degrees. You might as well put down that you sent money to a Prince in Nigeria from an email on your resume, saying you went here instantly tells an employer that you are a sucker who got conned. And what I hear is that these “video game design” programs from these for profits are completely worthless. Run away while you still can.

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    Wendy says

    Generally speaking, I think employers look at the overall package and not exclusively at the school. The effort you put in, your ability to demonstrate your skills and the connection you make should be way more important than the actual school you went to.

    Now that being said, yes, for profit schools are REALLY expensive, and you can probably find a better education for cheaper at a public university or community college. However as long as people are willing to pay and attend schools like this, they will stay in business.

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DJ says

I graduated from FS years ago. Specifically checked with 2 admin ladies to make sure I could “transfer my credits” to another school if I desired to after graduation. Both said yes. Both lied. At the time I knew little about accreditation differences. Just knew to ask that question. Of course later when I couldn’t transfer my credits to a University elsewhere for a Bachelors/Masters and being told I have to start over from scratch made me want to flip the building over about it.

75% of the teaching was pretty much tutorials and internet research. (Digital Media and Computer Animation) The rest were lectures and labs. The hardware and apps used at the school are great though.. Instructors maybe 20/70 as far as helpful to “just there for a paycheck” scale, which is the other reason I almost dropped out 50% of the way through my time there.

There’s definitely learning here as far as how to research and tutorials. In hindsight, I should have followed through with leaving and saved myself the hefty amount of debt. Once you get the pattern down of going online, doing labs, doing more tutorials, the cost of what you’re paying to attend this place will really start setting in, as you can pretty much buy a computer and software and do most of this stuff at home.

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    Wendy says

    I appreciate you taking the time to share your experience at Full Sail. That is really crappy the advisers told you the wrong information about transferring credits. Do you think they were purposely lying to you, or just misinformed?

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      Jacqueline Greenwood says

      My son is a grad from FS as well, and we are having a tough time with more issues….
      We didn’t know anything about this school before leaving Ct. to give what we thought was a great head start into life with the mild promises that were made.
      Let’s start by saying that this is costing us (in applied interest) that we didn’t know started the accrue process the DAY we got the loan…. we ar at $107,000
      3 separate loans to complete. Told that a FEW of the credits won’t transfer…never mind NONE!
      In the list of line items that you are charged for, is room and board, HELLO…..not until we agreed did we find that the school just has a conversation with surrounding apartments….but the list is $8940.00 I want that back!!!!!
      There is so much more…but I can’t take up your space……
      Let’s add ,with the cost of this school, you won’t find a job to live on AND pay back the loans….

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        Wendy says

        Sorry that happened to you, thanks for the warning! They charged you for room and board? Does Full Sail even have campus housing? I’m confused!

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Justin says

Everything you said was more or less fair. I’m currently a student of Full Sail, majoring in creative writing for the entertainment industry. Having attended two other colleges and completing a tech school program at another for profit school, North Bennet Street, I can offer unique insights to Full Sail. 1 as far as quality of education, it’s like any non-profit college, ( I feel like that term is a misnomer,) it rests partly in the instructor, and partially on the student. Some aren’t very good, some are absolutely amazing. 2. They don’t waste a lot of your time with classes that don’t pertain to your degree. One of my frustrations with traditional college was the plethora of unnecessary classes. Whatever your major at Full Sail, that is the majority of what you’ll study, and that suits my personality very well. 3 Full Sail tries to prepare students to work in the Entertainment industry, and have had many success stories. Recently, I went to their hall of fame ceremony and met the popular Netflix director Steve Miller, Grammy award winning music artist, DJ Swivel, and the Vice President of production of HBO. All Full Sail Grads, and all had the same message. No one will hand you success in this business, work hard and network in school, do internships, work hard some more, and luck always plays a role.

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Susan says

My daughter will be attending SUNY-Oswego in the Fall. With scholarships (even with the out of state tuition) and ridiculously cheap off campus housing, students applying to Full Sail should look at SUNY-Oswego.

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Z says

Thank you for information. I am army veteran looking to attend Full Sail University for their gaming design program. Reason why I left the military is because no one in my family have a college degree and I wanted at least someone in the family to attain such certification. I have looked at other school option and founded that the tuition are still above the 40k range for a B.S. in gaming design. I also have the G.I. Bill which will pay for 36-month of education, so it one less things to worry about. One reason why I’m thinking about this school is because of their 20-month B.S. degree and 12-month M.S. degree. Which mean that the G.I. Bill will pay for both B.S. and M.S. degree. That like killing 2 birds with 1 stone. I have read most of the complaints on the bbb website and saw that the majority of it is related to billing issues and only a few complaints of those issues are filled by veteran.

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    Wendy says

    Yeah no problem. I think if you have done your research and know what you want to do with your degree then Full Sail can be a good option.

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      Earl says

      Hey man,
      You sound just like me and I totally understand your concern and I’ve been where you are. I recently graduated from the school earning my BA degree and now going for my masters. I was also a veteran and i will give you the best advice as possible.

      I have to warn you brother that I wrote a lot below, I didn’t meant to compose a book but I feel strongly about helping others make the right career choices so bare with me lol

      First off , what I love about Full Sail is that it’s the land of opportunity. The programs are so flexible with starting you up on a long term investment for yourself and your career path. I love the courses opportunities. What bothers me is students not doing their research prior to attending the school and then blaming the school. Full Sail gives you all the tools, what you do afterwards is on you, so make sure have a solid plan.

      Let me back up and help you understand a few parameters and caveats. I’m gonna cover disclaimers and give some background information to help you chose wisely because the cons are just as important as the pros so lets cover accreditation and transferring credits:

      There’s many types of accreditation but I’m going to touch on the most common 2 right now. Regional accreditation and National accreditation. National accreditation are schools that are career based schools that teach you more about that specific field. Regional is more of your traditional 4 year universities such that we know as actual college and is recognized and its credits are accepted by nearly everyone school in the United States. So to sum it up, if you wanted to transfer credits to a different colleges then it would be very difficult for a regional accredited school to accept credits from a national accredited school because the education standards are more strict and up to the descretion of the receiving school, now if you attended a regional accredited school and wanted to transfer to a national accredited school then it would be very easy to transfer credits. Your credits and degree is easily recognized, but that doesn’t mean that your screwed if you went to a nationally accredited university especially if that field is what you want to do. You’re gonna get potential industry experience for that field anyways but If you don’t have a consistent plan and want to get more education and transfer your credits, then you may want to attend a regional accredited school and and then transfer to a national accredited school.

      The reason why I said this is because Full Sail is a national accredited school that is industry based and very prestigious in the school of media. I chose it because It was easy to get a BA in 20 months and a MA within a year for that specific field. I didn’t want to take all those extra education classes but i wanted to just get trained in my job, (even though you do have to take some of those classes as pre requisites)

      The problem is that people don’t do their research before attending Full Sail and they blame the school. If you have a solid plan and you want to stay with the game field and get trained more on that profession then great, but if you want to segway afters to another school or a traditional 4 year university to take up another degree, be cautious that Full Sail is a private university and its up to the receiving schools descretion to accept credits. In some cases it can be done but with several caveats. These are things that I wished someone would have told me so im happy to share these disclaimers.

      What I love about Full Sail is that it’s the land of opportunity. The programs are so flexible with starting you up on a long term investment for yourself and your career path. I love the courses opportunities.
      What bothers me is students not doing their research prior to attending the school and then blaming the school. Full Sail gives you all the tools, what you do afterwards is on you, so make sure have a solid plan.
      I could be wrong but i’m sure that the requirement for pursuing a masters degree is a BA alone. Now i’m sure there are other ramifications and qualifications to be accepted but don’t take my word on that. I would conduct as much research as possible.

      Like I said brother, Full Sail gives you the tools and what you do after that is on you. Be sure you reasonabley invest according to your plans and what you plan to do. I been in your shoes and you sound exactly like me.

      My apologies if this was extremely long and a bit bland, I wanted to shortened this as much as possible but also give you as much information as possible. This shows I can on forever about this because I love helping people make the right choices because I want to see others succeed.
      I really hope this helps you.

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Stephanie says

I was accepted into Full Sail over summer and ever since I’ve been questioning the school, something about it seemed wrong or just off. Thank you so much for pointing out these issues!
You and the previous comment have saved me from making the biggest mistake of my life.

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    Wendy says

    Glad you got the information you were looking for!! Full Sail isn’t the right choice for everybody and it’s important to know exactly what you’re signing up for before you give them money.

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Sean says

So very true in many accounts, however being a business and “operating” under legal doesn’t mean there aren’t moral and possible other shady dealings going on behind the scenes, ie, fudging numbers to the government to secure their standing to accept FAFSA, to name just one.

Coming from a heavy educational background prior to Fullsail, I should have trusted my gut and not ignored the signs from the beginning. Laser light shows, promises made by admissions reps(which I went through 5 at the time), loss of paperwork and transfer credits,etc. Instead, I was really “sold” on the idea and jazzed about learning to further my practical art to 3d. I was actually promised that I would be trained intensively and be job worthy if I applied myself, which 16 hours a day on a project, asking as many questions(with no answers other than go google that) I definitely applied myself. This was very important as I had been unemployed due to lack of gigs in the LA area for model/prop makers, I graduated with honors, and yet, no reel and definitely not employable.. I definitely put a good deal of blood, sweat and tears into my work. I took every assignment including gen ed classes, very, very seriously. I was there to learn, not fudge through. I’m a much older student so I took it very serious.
Into “finals”, I realized I was definitely not trained to do a reel and received little to no help, and when I reached out for assistance, was told by their intern “Your skills are garbage.” Talk about confidence shattering. I still managed to graduate with honors and yet was definitely not job worthy. I had no reel and a piece of paper with no worth. My degree isn’t even recognized and I can’t get a job in Computer Animation in any form, sadly.
I’m very angry with their instructors, who are young and worse full sail alum just their to pay off their loans and not all there to assist people. IF you are a prodigy, then they will mentor you as you are an easy help.
I should also mention the “real world education” is far from the truth. I’ve been to real schools and when you go to study something specialized, let’s say a doctor, you graduate with a degree and then you receive your license because, you were trained, they definitely don’t tell you to google everything. You are tested, drilled and you will learn or fail.
How can one receive what they put into it, if what they are given is substandard education? I’ve talked to quite a few fellow FS alums that are at varying degrees of talent, that were left out in their education because they weren’t prodigies, but had a definite passion to learn.
This school needs to be shut down. period.

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    Wendy says

    Wow thank you for sharing you experience at Full Sail, I think you can give some valued perspective for a lot of people considering taking this route. As for your views on “real world education” it is entirely dependent on what you are studying. In the case of doctors and other highly specialized fields, yes for sure you need proper training and experience by professionals and not just google! However I am a believer there are certain things you don’t NEED specialized schooling for (not even online schooling like Full Sail), even though there may be degrees offered. It really just depends on the field you enter and your ultimate goals.

    Reply
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