For-Profit Education Is About Profit, Not Education

It will come as a surprise to exactly no one that Betsy DeVos is a fan of for-profit colleges. After all, she has championed voucher programs that take funding from public schools and send it to private ones, many of which are run or managed as for-profit enterprises. Unfortunately, her support is not shaken either by the data rebutting the belief that such schools actually provide an education (let alone a superior education), or by the documented fraudulent behavior of for-profit “colleges.”

The New York Times editorial board recently weighed in on DeVos’ roll-back of efforts to protect college students against that fraud.

Say this for Betsy DeVos: The secretary of education has shown an impressive commitment to rescuing her friends in the for-profit college business from pesky measures to rein in their predatory behavior. As pet projects go, it lacks the sulfurous originality of her emerging idea to let states use federal dollars to put guns in schools. But it is a scandal nonetheless. Given the choice between protecting low-income students — and, by extension, American taxpayers — and facilitating the buck-raking of a scandal-ridden industry, Ms. DeVos aggressively pursues Option B.

The Obama-era regulations basically required “truth in advertising.” If too many students at the for-profit school racked up massive student debt–financed, after-all, by We the Taxpayers– and then were unable to qualify for decent jobs, and if the ratio of such failures exceeded a certain level for two out of three years, those schools became ineligible to receive taxpayer-backed loans and grants. The regulation also required for-profit programs to include whether or not they meet federal job-placement standards in their promotional materials.

DeVos said the regulation unfairly targeted for-profit schools, even though–as the Times reported-

A recent review of “borrower defense claims” — requests for loan relief filed with the Education Department by students asserting they were defrauded or misled by their schools — found that almost 99 percent involved for-profit institutions.

There is, in fact, plenty of evidence that for-profit educational institutions are much more interested in profit than in education. DeVos herself doesn’t seem very educated about data, education or the department she presumably runs. Nor is she winning many converts.

A federal court has ruled against her effort to delay implementation of the Obama rules, calling it “arbitrary and capricious.” And California just became the first state in the nation to ban for-profit charter schools. The law was inspired by a newspaper investigation confirming allegations of profiteering at the expense of children’s educations. For-profit charter schools currently operating in California “must convert to non-profit management prior to each school’s renewal deadline.”

Although I absolutely support both the regulations DeVos is attacking and California’s  requirement that for-profit institutions become nonprofit,  the problem isn’t limited to institutions that are organized as private, for-profit enterprises. Any business lawyer can explain the ways in which the line between for-profit and non-profit can be blurred. Create a corporation to provide an arguably publicly- beneficial purpose, and distribute what would otherwise be “profits” as salaries, and voila! (Take a look at some of your local “nonprofit” hospitals…)

And that brings me to Purdue University’s recent acquisition of Kaplan University, a for-profit enterprise now re-branded as public.  I think the Century Foundation got it right, when it charged that Purdue University Global Is a For-Profit College Masquerading as a Public University.

In April, the for-profit Kaplan University officially became an arm of Indiana’s public university system. With its new home and new name, Purdue University Global is the first public university to share control with a for-profit company answerable to investors. When the deal was announced last year, Purdue’s president said that critics of for-profit colleges “should be happy” that Purdue was turning Kaplan into a public rather than for-profit institution. Critics, however, wondered whether the for-profit company’s large ongoing role meant, instead, that Kaplan’s history of predatory practices would simply re-emerge under a “public” moniker.

One answer to that question arrived last week, when Purdue faculty members revealed that the online school is requiring instructors to sign a four-page nondisclosure agreement. The pledge, required for Purdue Global employees, prohibits professors and staff from discussing anything they know about the university’s operations with anyone else, including their colleagues (unless those people already have access to the information). Officials at the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) describe the pledge as “unprecedented for a public, non-profit university” and “breathtakingly inappropriate in higher education.”

Now, The Century Foundation has new documents showing that predatory practices at Purdue Global were baked into the plan from the very beginning.

Those documents–described in detail at the linked article–reveal a number of ways in which Purdue Global was designed to be much more of a for-profit college obligated to its investors than a public institution serving students.

I am a big believer in markets, profits, and capitalism…in the economic sectors where markets and profits are appropriate. Education is not one of those sectors.

Rather than strengthening performance of education’s public function, rather than recognizing the critically important role of education in producing a literate and informed polity, the Republicans running our government–and the Republican running Purdue University–are elevating profit over purpose, and moving us in precisely the wrong direction.


  1. And just yesterday Harrison “College” abruptly closed its doors leaving students with no degree but with plenty of debt.

  2. Boy, you sure struck a raw nerve of mine today. As a Purdue grad, I have lost respect for my alma mater since the Trustees that Daniels placed there hired him as the President.

    As governor, Daniels brought in Devos dollars with the intention of convincing the legislature to approve using taxpayer money to support voichers for private schools. He wanted to break teacher unions.

    The final nail in the coffin for Purdue’s integrity was when he convinced the legislature to approve the Kaplan deal. It appears that his intention might be to use Kaplan profits to financially support the tuition freeze at Purdue. Of course, that would take place after the for profit board members take their cut of the winnings.

    I feel that this is the beginning of the destruction of Purdue as a world class university.

    ( I typed this on my phone, so please forgive me for spelling or grammatical errors)

  3. “Although I absolutely support both the regulations DeVos is attacking and California’s requirement that for-profit institutions become nonprofit, the problem isn’t limited to institutions that are organized as private, for-profit enterprises. ”

    For the few of you who may not be aware; Purdue’s acquisition of Kaplan University and the status change, this all comes from former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels who personally named almost every member of the Purdue Board of Directors who, in turn, named Mitch Daniels President of Purdue University.

    “Rather than strengthening performance of education’s public function, rather than recognizing the critically important role of education in producing a literate and informed polity, the Republicans running our government–and the Republican running Purdue University–are elevating profit over purpose, and moving us in precisely the wrong direction.”

    Does Purdue University’s acquisition of Kaplan University, a for-profit institution, explain how and why Mitch Daniels could proudly claim no increase in student tuition at Purdue? (And how long will that last?) As an aside regarding our former Gov. Daniels, an avid motorcyclist; how did he deal with the rule of NO motorcycles allowed on Purdue campus? Just askin’

    As for Betsy DeVos’ questionable appointment to Secretary of Education by Trump; it is not so questionable when you remember this puts her own billions of dollars within Trump’s reach plus the added benefit of her brother Eric Prince who also has billions of dollars and whose Blackwater troops are probably on 24 hour call for Trump’s hoped for WWIII. I have read reports that they are already in action – fake news or truth?


  4. Nancy; your comments popped up as I was typing mine. Glad to see we are both aware of the Purdue situation…and have been since Daniels’ questionable appointment as President of Purdue University. All “public” universities are more and more facing questionable financial situations; the only losers are the students regarding the quality of education they receive plus those immense debts they are responsible for.


  5. imagine,the money spent slamming each other for a run for political office,being used for education. when Bernies grassroots,bought in that 27bucks avg, here was a calling… when campaigns are over,get the leftover,to public school systems..ALEC is a scam to privatize anything goverment. when schools are in question, make sure its a elected school board,and elected deans,of? imgine some one in charge,and you can fire them. with manaforts rolling over, i see a swing, heres corprate american,hell bent on owning our goverment,to find out, they are all scam artists. Mueller,obvioulsy,knows more about whatever is in question in the spl councils office.and its obvious,when these suits walk out of his office,the twenty mile stare in in thier eyes.. i say Mueller has more than russia on his mind,and will bring up,and back,former investigations that money may have shelved…RIP,manafort.. your time has come..
    one item,willie nelson has decided to do a benifit for beto orouke,in austin,willies tried and true following,well some belive hes a traitor.. maybe they should look at betrayal to our nation.musics help ended a war in vietnam,and bush silenced it,9/11 style. maybe we need those
    protest songs,of presnet day affairs,to be sung now. maybe those artists,under corprate control,should,stand and sing,and tell em, if you dont want all of my music,then demand the corprate media,that those radio stations can not play any of thier music. shut down the music,and you will start a real war,one from the heart….best wishes,,

  6. There’s not much good that can be said about the super rich making policy decisions about the education of the masses. The profiteers have only one thing in mind, PROFITS. Or, as John D. Rockefeller said during an interview when asked how much money was enough, “Just a little more.”

    Capitalism and public service for the betterment of society are INCOMPATIBLE when the profiteers instead of the people make the laws and the policies.

  7. What would anyone expect, considering that Purdue is run by Mitch Daniels, who has always been “bottom line” guy. To add to that, Purdue has always been a “top-down” organization, in that decisions made at the top are expected to be carried out by everyone else, with no reservations or discussions.

  8. I am also a Purdue grad. I once was a donor to the school. Now, when they have those nice young students call me asking for money, my response is, “I will give to the university again when they no longer have a political shill as their president.” Mitch is an embarrassment to the university, whose goal seems to be to turn it into a trade school.


  9. Will Purdue become just another casualty of greed and the corruption it breeds? Cronyism and financial manipulation puts more taxpayer money into the hands of profiteers, hidden from public view by NDAs, which I think should be unConstitutional in the public sector. Calling it public when it is convenient to profit is slight of hand theft. NDAs mean that the public is not allowed to know what their taxes are funding.
    Wisconsin and Indiana are apparently willing to sacrifice their public universities’ stellar reputations and academic standards on the altar of greed. Where are the alumna who should be pushing back? Are they now stockholders of those for-profit institutions?
    What kind of students will Purdue graduate? Worker bees or critical thinkers and problem-solvers, skilled labor or pioneers in new thinking?

  10. President Agent Orange, Pastor Pence and Betsy DeVos among others in the current Regime represent a perfect storm of Crony-Capitalism, willful ignorance and Theocracy. These three could care less about the humanitarian aspects of religion, but willingly use religion’s authoritarianism to direct and maintain control of the Bible Thumper’s. See the below paragraph as an example of Crony-Capitalism and willful ignorance.

    Megan Mayhew Bergman, writes: > “In 2012, the conservative-leaning North Carolina legislature passed HB 219, a bill that deemed current climate science “unreliable” and “extreme”. The best science was left out of coastal development and policy discussions. “They need to use some science that we can all trust when we start making laws in North Carolina that affect property values on the coast,” the Republican state representative Pat McElraft said. The result is an overly developed, vulnerable coastline, one currently inundated with storm surge.”

    It would be interesting to know, who got fat in the wallet when Purdue acquired Kaplan University.

    The Century Foundation link has this, “Kaplan’s Online Programs Enrollment Agreement contained just one clause regarding forced arbitration, Purdue Global lists thirteen clauses. Additional restrictions require students to “waive the right to a jury trial,” place an explicit ban on class actions, and apply forced arbitration even to cases of fraud or misrepresentation “relating to advertising or other solicitations to enroll at Purdue Global.”
    This “Agreement” is part of the Greater Goal of Serfdom for Americans. The Serfdom includes as it’s features long term debt for the students and all the restrictive clauses handing over their legal rights to gain any relief from any abuses.

    These restrictive “agreements” are not unusual any more, they are necessary pillar of Steroid Capitalism.

  11. jack smith, I also found an article on Willie Nelson:
    Country music legend Willie Nelson has enraged some of his most conservative fans by announcing plans to play at a huge rally on behalf of Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic insurgent threatening an election upset in Texas.

    One Texan wrote on Twitter: “Someone buy my Willie Nelson ticket for Friday, November 16. I am no longer willing to watch that hippie guitarist who supports that damn socialist running for Senate.”

    “Just cause you can write a song, sing a song, play a guitar and smoke weed – doesn’t mean you know what’s right for this state!!! Entertainers should stay out of politics & stick to entertaining.”
    Typical reactions from the Right Wing. I recall then Candidate Agent Orange smeared Ted Cruz and his family, Lying Ted, etc.

  12. JoAnn asks, “Does Purdue University’s acquisition of Kaplan University, a for-profit institution, explain how and why Mitch Daniels could proudly claim no increase in student tuition at Purdue?”

    I recently spoke with a book salesman who travels to Lafayette often and shared about all the international students, mainly Chinese, who are attending Purdue and paying extremely high rates. This is why Mitch has been able to keep tuition lower for in-state high school graduates.

    One can be a fan of capitalism (markets) but also see how capitalism has destroyed our culture and many others around the globe. Once again, the reason Einstein called capitalism “evil” was due to its destruction of social function within human beings.

    This destruction is evident in every branch of local, state and federal government today. It is evident in how we handle educating our citizenry and the cries our planet makes daily.

    Over 33% of Hoosiers are now considered obese. Gluttony and sloth are accentuated under capitalism because the markets strive to make “life easier” and “more convenient” for consumers. In fact, everything in our society is geared toward consumers.

    Aren’t we much more than consumers?

    When I read economists writing OpEds in our local newspapers addressing social ills like addiction or poverty or obesity, I just cringe. Who in the world wants to hear the opine of an economist on every subject matter?

    Capitalism is meant to be highly regulated by a strong government. The strong government is meant to be held accountable to the people by a strong free press (Fourth Branch of Government).

    We don’t have anything like this in our country. The only branch of government which is considered strong is our military and surveillance state. Even the police are militarized and above the law.

    The other counterbalancing act to capitalism is unions. Without unions, capitalists run over workers and pass along all productivity efforts of workers to CEOs and shareholders. The 1980’s began the obliteration of unions. We are now under 15% unionized.

    No checks and no balances. Capitalists with a strong military and surveillance apparatus spell disaster for citizens. The proverbial writing is on the wall for ALL to see.

  13. Somehow profit moved from being “a motive” to being “an end in itself” and therefore a good thing. Then corporations became people that were subject to the Bill of rights. Ask the originalists where it says anything like that in the Constitution or even the Federalist Papers? Both developments were brought about by the Corporatists who control the political parties, the media, and all the other “haves.” Voting Blue this year is not a solution but hopefully our first (or last) breath of fresh air. The people inclined to stop this madness will have access to power. Stopping and changing all this crap is a hope. It is all we have. VOTE BLUE

  14. Let’s face it, make more money regardless of the impact on others contains no magic. The vast majority of us work because we want the pay to buy what we need certainty but it’s also just part of our our social life and who we are in terms of skills and friends and “ritual”.

    Profit is merely a way for businesses to pay back investors from whom they borrowed money to obtain the means of production in advance of production.

    In this country we have,to a large degree, turned “power” to influence us over to a group of people who are disconnected from business whom we call “shareholders” and who bet each other on the direction that the public perception of the value of their shares will go.

    We have to ask, how do these people earn any “power” over the rest of us? They are gamblers betting on corporations with the “winners” being the ones who guess or estimate most reliably those who can make more money regardless of the impact on others. Their gambling pot stays amongst them and moves from losers to winners. The dysfunctional part of this casino is that much of the wealth that workers create goes to corporate executives who effectively work for the gamblers not the workers or customers.

    To me that doesn’t justify any influence over the vast majority of us.

  15. Peggy Hannon Bravo!

    Todd Smekens: “Capitalism is meant to be highly regulated by a strong government. The strong government is meant to be held accountable to the people by a strong free press (Fourth Branch of Government).”

    Absolutely! Unfettered capitalism is an all consuming evil. Greed does not have a conscience. It must be tempered by a form of socialism or it simply runs amok–as in what we are seeing from Trump and the Repiglicans

    As for “for Profit” education let me say this: In our current state placing the words “for profit” or “privatized” before any others means just this. Profits at any cost–so long as they are paid for in the end by the taxpayers.

    Barbara Boxer recently pointed out that it costs $775 per DAY to house ONE migrant child and correctly identified the reason: profits for billionaires. Trump and his evil empire must not just be apprehended–they must be put down–for the good of all–even the ones too willfully ignorant or stupid to realize it.

  16. Wray, the only thing that I would see differently from your post is that it’s up to we the people to hire and fire our representation in and to government, not the press. However we rely on the main stream media for information upon which to decide who goes and who stays. That’s the reason that propaganda tries so hard to detract from the credibility of main stream media and promotes propaganda sources.

  17. Apparently none of you peruse college ranking but if you did you would realize Purdue ranks very high in the public university catagory. Guess what, every public university charges out of state students and international students more money for tuition than in-state students. Maybe if you didn’t have such hatred for all things conservative or republican you might be able to understand the value Purdue offers our state and Indiana students. My friend in California told me many students come to a Indiana for college because of the excellent value it offers them. This blog has really become a platform to spew your hate, so please keep it up because the common sense American can see through your hypocrisy just like the circus event the Democrats are running at the Kavanaugh hearings. You’re in an echo chamber here and so please, keep telling everyone how you feel and yes, please vote blue. It’s not going to change anything because your party has nothing to offer but hate for Trump! It’s sad

  18. Profits are at cross purposes with public services which must serve rich and poor without regard to wealth. Unfortunately, our lawmakers have decided to underfund and sometimes cut public services, forcing schools, colleges, and others to give financial considerations a higher priority than in the past. So even when public schools and colleges remain public, they are forced to contract out services to for-profit entities. Colleges deny placements to in-state students to make more space for out-of-staters who pay higher tuition. The taxpayers who pay most of the freight for these institutions lose equal opportunity to enjoy the public services and/or the quality previously enjoyed. So ultimately we don’t even get what we pay for.

    It’s a vicious cycle where both students and taxpayers will lose.

  19. Becky–do you mean our party has nothing to offer (which is ridiculous) but hate for Trump, just like your party had nothing but pure hatred for Obama and would not work with him on anything? At least Kavanaugh is GETTING a hearing! Sounds to me like you are in a Fox News echo chamber. Please do not lecture us on hypocrisy–your party is taking home the Gold Medal for that!

  20. “Guess what, every public university charges out of state students and international students more money for tuition than in-state students.”

    Becky; considering the in-state college student tuition fees being lower than out-of-state…or out of country…local college graduates come out with a piece of paper, deeply in debt. Let’s use $50,000 in student loans as an average; repayment begins 6 WEEKS after graduation…job or no job. The fact that someone from China pays lower college fees at Purdue University and in-state students pay lower amounts; they are still deeply in debt with payments due to begin within 6 WEEKS. I don’t call that much of an advantage; and those students are expected to also become one of those among the taxpayers to be able to repay the loan, a double shot. Graduates from other states and other countries go home to deal with whatever those laws require. Also factor in, under George W., student loans began requiring co-signers, if the graduate is not working the bills arrive in the parent’s, other family member’s or friend’s mailboxes…due upon receipt. There is no longer help for students with these loans, which President Obama provided and Trump ended. this is that vicious circle and this takes us back to Purdue University and former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels…one among how many thousand colleges and universities in this country?


  21. When the trustees I troduced Mitch as their choice for President, at an age any president would have been forced to retire, they said it was a unanimous decision. They lied. His wife was not there, nor does she live on campus but retains her life in Indianapolis. He essentially works on campus Monday through Thursday and returns home each weekend.

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