File Under “I Told You So”

New data from the Education Department confirms what most educators have long known, that for-profit schools rarely deliver on their promises to prepare students for successful careers. An analysis of more than 5,000 career programs offered by for-profit schools found 72% of them produced graduates who earn less than high school dropouts.

Why do students enroll in these programs? Many–perhaps most–cannot gain admittance to a public or private institution of higher education, because they are unprepared for college-level work. That makes them prime targets for the ethically dubious tactics of such schools.

For-profit “colleges” may be a bad deal for students, but they are great for the pocketbooks of their proprietors and investors, and they are proliferating.

Huffington Post recently reported that the new federal consumer protection agency has sued one such institution.

Director Richard Cordray charged that ITT “misled students by overstating their salaries and job prospects upon graduation” and then pushed them into predatory high-interest private student loans.

Cordray called the abuse of students by the overall for-profit college industry “truly an American tragedy.” He was joined at the event by the attorneys general of Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, and New Mexico, all of whom are conducting investigations of major for-profit colleges.

These practices would come to a quick stop if taxpayers stopped subsidizing these problematic schools by allowing their students to participate in federal loan programs. For-profit students account for about 31 percent of all student loans and nearly half of all loan defaults.

It isn’t like these “schools” are any bargain. Atlantic reports that

[f]or-profits charge tuition like private not-for-profits, while offering less institutional financial aid. Low-income students who might pay nothing out-of-pocket at a public institution, thanks to grant aid, pay about $8,000 in tuition at a for-profit school, according to a 2011 report from The College Board. Students take out loans to make up the difference.

These student loans aren’t doing the students any favors. They’re just lining the pockets of predators.


  1. Unfortunately overstating employment prospects to grads isn’t a phenomenon confined to these for profit private schools, it happens with the not for profit public schools as well. Law schools are notorious for misrepresenting average first year salaries and employment figures.

  2. Tom Harkin on NPR today also noted that while only 12% of students attend for profit colleges, they receive 25% of federal funding. And when students default, which they do in larger numbers at FP universities, those universities get to keep that money, often lining the pockets of presidents and shareholders. Sigh, I swear, this country…

  3. I think the for-profits are destined for the ash can, leaving thousands of students with unimaginable debt and either no degrees or worthless degrees. While some of the faculty and students are excellent, many more are not, and the faculty often serves to enable less-than-able students in a dysfunctional relationship that produces a number of people with advanced degrees who can hardly write a complete sentence. Even if they can, they have learned that education is learning what to think, not how to think while believing that education constitutes passively attending classes in which one is entitled to a high grade. Furthermore, the dept. faculties are often quite small, do not constitute a strong knowledge base or traditions, and are seen as objects to be “managed” by supervisors who think they can run the organization by arbitrary decisions, just because it is a “business”. This is a recipe for disaster.

  4. Maybe someone should have told our former Governor before he wasted all that money on incentives to get them to re-locate in Indiana. In the words of Chris Matthews, “Capitalism is not a Diety”

  5. The ‘for-profit’ colleges and universities are disgraceful. Basically, I’d be ashamed to apply for a job listing any ‘for-profit’ college as my highest level of education. Among some of the non-profit colleges are University of Phoenix, DeVry University, Walden University, Kaplan University, Brown Mackie, Sullivan University, etc. By the way, a few months ago, the IPS School Board hired a new Director of Human Services who boasts about her doctorate from Walden University. Here’s a link to a comprehensive listing of ‘for-profit’ colleges and universities:

  6. Despite these problems, the Mayor’s Charter School Board has approved a subsidiary of ITT to open a new grades 11-12 Indianapolis charter school. Classes start this fall–note the new billboards on Michigan Road and other major arteries. No problems here . . .

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