Bought and Paid For

A Federal District Court judge in Washington recently upheld new Obama administration rules that deny federal aid to career training programs that charge outrageous amounts, saddle students with crushing debt, and give them useless degrees in return.

As the New York Times editorialized

The ruling strongly reaffirms the government’s authority to regulate these often-corrupt programs — and comes at a time when federal and state investigations are uncovering fraud and misconduct by for-profit schools all over the country. Regrettably, however, Republicans in both houses are moving bills that would block the Obama administration from enforcing the rules.

As the editorial notes, the new rules were inspired by data showing that students in for-profit schools account for only about 12 percent of college enrollment, but nearly half of student loan defaults.

We the taxpayers have been footing the bill for these predatory practices.

Research has consistently shown that graduates of for-profit institutions are more likely than graduates of other institutions to have debt of more than $40,000 by the time they leave school, and far less likely to find the employment promised by those marketing these programs.  What is particularly odious about these “schools” is that they deliberately target veterans, minorities and the poor.

Republican attempts to block the new rules are not sitting well with organizations that work on behalf of consumers, veterans and the poor. This spring, a coalition of these groups sent a letter reminding Congress that 37 state attorneys general are jointly investigating allegations of fraud in for-profit schools. Various investigations have already uncovered deceptive tactics; dismal graduation rates; false or inflated job placement rates; and dubious sales and admissions policies that target veterans and students of color.

It’s hard to argue with the Times‘ conclusion.

At issue here is an industry that routinely exploits the country’s most vulnerable citizens and fleeces the federal student aid program at the same time. The administration’s effort to bring it under control deserves support, not legislative sabotage.


  1. U.S. Corporatocracy is almost totally corrupt. Obama called out all GOP candidates yesterday.

  2. Interesting article on the Viewpoints page of the Star this morning; authored by George Will of the Washington Post.

    “In 1824, in retirement 37 years after serving as the Constitutional Conference’s prime mover, James Madison, 73, noted that the 1787 “language of our Constitution is already undergoing interpretations unknown to its founders.” He knew that the purport of the text would evolve “with the changeable meaning of the words composing it.”

    He couldn’t possibly invision what has been done to the Constitution and Amendments in this 21st Century. It couldn’t have been the goal of founding fathers to allow American citizens to be overrun and controlled by big businesses which cause our young people to become deeply in debt barely out of their teen years. Nor that the very air we breathe would become polluted by big businesses to the level that our lives are endangered and that state courts would allow it to continue and escalate. None of them could have foreseen the control of American women’s most intimate health decisions and the sex and married lives of anyone would be controlled by states based on individual religious beliefs of some elected officials. They could not have seen the Judicial System, put in place to protect and serve, overturn the Constitution and Amendments, denying basic civil and human rights this country was founded on.

    I have family and friends buried under student loans with no end in sight…few have employment in their chosen field…or employment in general. The American Dream is now on the auction block to the highest bidder. The number and quality of Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential campaign has become a joke, a dirty joke with more fools entering the race daily. Is this a deliberate act on their part to divert our attention from the issues we need to address…only one of the issues is student loan indebtedness but it is vital. Student loan debt harms the entire economy; debts incurred for their education preempts buying homes, vehicles, having children (IF birth contol is available to them), clothing, vacations, local entertainment or dining out – except for unhealthy fast-food, carry-out locations.

    Tax payers are continuing to bear this burden and others because, contrary to the reported lower jobless rate, minimum and low wage employment prevents former students from maintaining payments on their loans…or improving the quality of their lives. Don’t forget that they are incuded in the tax payers who are paying for other’s indebtedness as well as their own. It is a vicious cycle of debt; much of the blame goes to SCOTUS, our 14th Amendment rights have been derailed by old men, appointed for life to a position that is being abused and sold out via Citizens United…another SCOTUS action bought and paid for by those who benefit from it.

  3. Pretense is among the high practices of corruption. It is quackery at the expense of people seeking to increase in qualifications for better economic practice. Often the teachers who work for these quack attacks are so woefully qualified it is impossible for them to be of much help to students. It is education gone among in the swirl of private concerns who have so little regard for the public good.

  4. Wayne, what do you expect from the U.S. Corporatocracy or the present ethically corrupted Republican Party? It’s the beginnings of a new form of fascism. Generally, it only differs from the old form in that it doesn’t need military intervention to control.

    Jacksonville, Florida is NOW a completed prototype similar to what the Nazi’s were able to do in Nordheim, Germany during the Third Reich. See “The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experiences of a Single German Town 1922-1945” by William Sheridan Allen (Franklin Watts, Inc. New York, 1965).

    See a terrific explanation of what we’re now facing by Dr. Geoff Boucher a professor at Deakin University Melbourne, Australia in an article entitled: “Postmodern Neofascism: Contemporary Rightwing Extremism in the Metropolitan Countries” at

    “This paper investigates the SUBTERRANEAN continuities and the radical break of the 1980’s, to propose that contemporary “rightwing extremism” is a distinctly postmodern form of fascism.”

    An excerpt: “the democratic environment of contemporary politics in metropolitan countries rules out an armed insurgency as the “real” strategy of neofascism, just as it also excludes “fascist takeover”–military dictatorship and state-sponsored civil war, with the associated death squads and concentration camps–in Europe and America. Far from being a comforting prospect, this should alert us to the real danger: the auxiliary role of neofascism is based on the fact that today, the structural function of fascist “national renewal” is performed by postmodern conservative governments, and neofascist parties in power have gravitated towards postmodern conservative pragmatism rather than towards military dictatorship.”

  5. Not all profit-makers are corrupt, but our government has turned a blind eye to this particular corruption which bankrupts students trying to pull them selves up by their bootstraps and cheats taxpayers too.

    Thank you Sheila for pulling back the veil on these corrupt profiteers and to the President and Sen. Elizabeth Warren for taking steps to STOP THEM.

  6. Personally I see the proliferation of for-profit colleges based largely on these schools’ open-admission policies or at least practically open-admission policies.

    Their marketing strategy revolves around a theme of “Come one, come all! We’ll admit you. Don’t worry about your high school grades. Don’t worry about any SAT or ACT. We won’t badger you with any Basic Skills tests in reading or mathematics. Friendly customer service reps will complete all your paperwork and arrange for your tuition through our close working arrangement with the Federal government and local banks. No need to appear in person, save time and enroll by telephone where our lines are open 24/7.”

    Here’s a listing of for-profit colleges in Indiana.

  7. Elizabeth Warren recently took to task in a Senate Hearing, Albert C. Gray, the president of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. Warren challenged Mr. Gray’s accreditation process ( or lack thereof). This concerned Corinthian Colleges—the giant for-profit college company that operated almost 120 campuses in North America and tumbled into bankruptcy in May—was under investigation by 20 different states for lying to students and defrauding them to get them to enroll.

    The corruption in our country is at pandemic levels. The Republicans seem to be only concerned with allowing it to spread.

  8. One of the oft used but seldom defined words in our language is “fascism”. Here’s one attempt that tops Google returns:

    an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.
    synonyms: authoritarianism, totalitarianism, dictatorship, despotism, autocracy; More
    (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.

    It would appear applicable here and now.

    Our wrinkle though is instead of Hitler and his mindless marching minions we have the Kochs et al and their similar minions recruited not by extreme nationalism but extreme consumerism. Ours is more subtle and up against a mightier foe compared to pre WWII Europe, our Constitution and democracy. Still clearly the biggest threat our democracy has faced.

    One antidote is education but the “make more money regardless of the cost to others” folks have co-opted that too.

    When Adam Smith first told us about the “invisible hand” of free enterprise he of course assumed perfectly informed buyers and sellers in a free market. When’s the last time any of us were perfectly informed as consumers in any market nowadays?

    Our first priority is to beat back economic fascism and restore democracy. Along the way we have to destroy the illusion of low cost energy and matter in a finite planet and restore good sense and a climate more like we built civilization adapted to. Simultaneously we have to ditch the idea of low cost entertainment and take back an environment filled with truth rather than salesmen in our living rooms.

    Tall order millennials. Sorry for the greediest generations inabilities and irresponsiblities. We do wish you Godspeed.

  9. Pete, a good friend pointed out to me we have all the DNA in our political system of fascism. The Koch Bros had their equal in sense in Germany in the Krupp Industrial Empire of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

    Our Fascism may not be the overt heavy handed Fascism of Hitler or Mussolini. The illusion we have is Freedom. Oh yes, I can post on the Internet some well considered critique or analysis of our Corrupt Crony-Capitalist System. I could also post a conspiracy ridden diatribe totally lacking in facts. Changing the “Elected Representation” we have from Crony-Capitalists to elected officials who put the people before the Corporations and Big Campaign Donors is something else.

    Another point is how we have this curtain, smoke and mirrors, or night and fog around us. At least the last time I checked we have more people in jail per capita than any other nation on earth. Our “Defense” Budget easily exceeds the next 7 countries combined. Gone is the draftee Dog Face or G.I. of WW 2, Korea or Vietnam. We now have a Warrior Cult. We are constantly reminded we are the “Exceptional People” I guess it would not play well to say we are the Herrenvolk, even though that is what is being said.

  10. BSH, you are right on about the students and for-profit colleges, but the other half is that while there are a number of excellent students and faculty in those places, there are many third rate faculty who conspire with students who are not competent and who really don’t care to learn. Somehow, the students think that they are entitled to get good grades because they have paid for the class and deserve that magic degree. And when the school establishes rules and contingencies which encourage people to give away credits and for students not to bother to learn, you have a marriage of convenience. Teachers get paid, and students get “credit”, but the students also get stuck with the bill and discover that, degree or not, employers don’t hire people who can’t think, read or work hard. Degrees really are not magic after all.

    In their advertising, the for-profits tend to point to the excellent faculty members and the fine students, but those students do well wherever they are. The ones on the outside are the folks who discover that a degree gets you nowhere if it hasn’t helped you perform. Being an illiterate con usually doesn’t work out, but they are still stuck with the bill, and they usually discover that they paid for an illusion.

  11. I think that culturally we think of physical activity as hard and “information” work as easy. That makes higher education a popular fork in the road for uninspired people (as well as inspired people). The uninspired soon, but often not soon enough, find out that learning and applying requires great self discipline and long dedicated hours. No easy path. Sometimes financially rewarding downstream but never without dedicated effort.

    The uninspired can be a pretty easy to reel in patsies for those marching to makes more money regardless of the cost to others. Easy to maneuver.

    Hence many with more in student loans that can’t realistically be paid off with their income prospects.

    Whose behavior is most effectively managed by society. Nobodies? The under inspired students? Their parents? Their education institutions? The predatory business men and women? Banks giving the loans?

  12. BTW. I personally think we need higher educational institution expectations in practical living that prepare people better to avoid becoming prey.

  13. Not until 2001 did Indiana acknowledge publicly that a community college system was long overdue. Gov Kernan spearheaded the effort to establish an Indiana system of community colleges, but despite his early efforts the community college system never gained traction with the giants in Hoosier Higher Education, being IU and Purdue, who were reluctant to give up their lucrative 2-year Associate Degree Programs and their subsequent tuition revenues, knowing full well that countless Indiana students could not afford to move away from their home areas for a 2-year degree.

    Ivy Tech’s earliest emergence as Indiana Vocational Technical College was in the late 1960’s while our neighboring states were already busy establishing strong systems of community colleges where students could earn Associate Degrees in General Studies that would transfer into the 4-year state universities for credit toward Bachelor’s Degrees or could fulfill the requirements for various vocational or technical programs of study leading to certifications making them job ready in less than 2 years.

    For decades after Indiana Vocational Technical College opened its doors, the top brass, Board of Trustees, at IU and Purdue, joined by (surprise, surprise) the for-profit vocational/technical institutes, tried their best to kill the fledgling community college. They stacked a special commission formed to determine if such a community college was needed and viable. Fortunately, they came up one vote short and Ivy Tech Community College was formed. Finally in 2008, the IU system announced it would be moving its 2-year programs to Ivy Tech campuses throughout the state.

    Through the decades, Purdue and IU used their lobbying muscle to keep IVTC, later Ivy Tech Community College, in a Cinderella position to the higher-ed stepsisters. It only seems logical that during this period of lobbying against a robust system of IN community colleges that the for-profit colleges snuck in the back door and set up their shabby businesses.

  14. @Louie

    Your friend is right about the DNA of the political system being Fascist. The DNA of the old political system has been modified.

    Someone must illustrate how the new political DNA model was constructed. Assuming it’s not a helix, what does it look like?

    In that way, effective action can be taken to modify it. That’s the only way the country can start to move toward a sensible political equilibrium.

  15. There was a point during my internship in clinical psychology when I realized that at some clinics, the patients were seen not as patients or even as consumers, but as the mechanism by which dollars were extracted from insurers. At the for-profit schools, I suspect the same thing is going on — the students are not students to be educated or consumers to be give something they have paid for, but rather cogs in the machinery of extracting student loan money from the government.

  16. Aimee; no idea if you have had doctor appointments regularly but…primary physicians today practice little medicine, they are now glorified information and referral specialists. The same is true with hospital ER and/or in-patient care, many tests are unnecessary. The tests are expensive; if co-pays (such as with Medicare supplemental health care) are low, most of the bill goes to Medcare. This exlains the rising costs of Medicare to recipients and why Medicare needs to cut back on physician and hospital fees. This is, as with everything else today, a follow the money situation.

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