If you watch daytime TV, or you're an Arizona Cardinals fan, you've probably heard of the University of Phoenix -- the online, degree-awarding school. If you follow the stock of its parent company, Apollo Group (Nasdaq: APOL), you also know that it has fallen 23% since unfavorable winds started blowing against the for-profit education industry in mid-October.

Stay away!

When a company that has Apollo's presence falls this much, it usually leads bargain hunters to buy in. Such a decision, I believe, would be a big mistake. Here are three reasons why you should put your hard-earned money to work elsewhere:

1. The final product
Using graduation rates as one metric to measure the final product, Apollo comes up woefully short. Most of the University of Phoenix's students are working, so it may take additional time to complete coursework. Even taking this into account, only 34% of students have their bachelor's degree after six years.

For comparison's sake, I looked to my home state: Wisconsin. The state system has 173,000 students spread out over 13 campuses. Sixty-six percent of students graduate within six years, nearly twice the number for Phoenix. The most expensive Wisconsin school's tuition, by the way, costs $8,313 per year (in-state) while it would run you $17,400 per year for the same degree at Phoenix.

2. Government subsidies
If students paid out of their pockets and were still willing to fork over the money for these results, everything would be fine and dandy. In reality, however, it is your tax dollars that pay for these paltry graduation rates.

As The Associated Press pointed out in a Nov. 29 article, the University of Phoenix receives "government-backed student aid, the bulk of their revenue, even if students eventually drop out of classes burdened with debt."

With local, state and national governments going through an extreme budget crunch, don't expect politicians -- or voters -- to overlook such fruitless spending. The Department of Education has recently put for-profit schools under the microscope.

3Similar offerings at nonprofit schools
Finally, if you could get a degree at a reputable, nonprofit school with higher graduation rates, why waste your time with the University of Phoenix? Already, huge strides are being made in distance and remote learning programs at well-established, nonprofit schools. Among them are: the University of North Carolina, Cornell, Northwestern, George Washington, Texas A&M and the University of Florida. These are the big names, but there are many, many more.

Industrywide Problem
To be honest, it's unfair to just poke at Apollo. Although its flagship school is the most visible, a large portion of the for-profit education community is in danger. With intense scrutiny bearing down on them, Corinthian Colleges (Nasdaq: COCO), DeVry (NYSE: DV), and Strayer (Nasdaq: STRA) are just some of the stocks that find themselves in the same predicament as Apollo. Surely, there are better deals out there than this.

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Fool contributor Brian Stoffel does not own shares in any of the companies in this article. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.