For-Profit Colleges Under Scrutiny

It seems obvious to say that not all colleges are created equal. There is a big difference between Harvard and your local community college. But there is an even greater divide between the typical college system and for-profit educational institutions. Critics of these institutions claim that these colleges exist with the primary goal of making money, not educating.

In August,  a government probe of some for-profit colleges showed rampant fraud and deception.  In some cases, colleges misrepresented their credentials, graduation rates, job prospects for graduates,  and more. Other problems with for-profit colleges include the fact that they are sometimes not properly accredited, classes completed there are not always readily transferrable to a traditional college, and people rack up an awful lot of debt trying to pay for them. One Los Angeles Times Article pointed out that “Students enrolled in for-profit colleges account for 26% of all student loans and 43% of loan defaulters…”

To crack down on for-profit colleges, the federal government is planning on implementing some new regulations. There will be requirements that for-profit colleges provide students with accurate information about graduation and employment rates, give the U.S. Education Department statistics on student debt, and also let the department know when a school is planning a change in its program.

Read the L.A. Times article about the regulations here.

Some politicians are not convinced that for-profit colleges alone deserve all this scrutiny. An Aug. 4 USA Today article included this quote from Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.: “In focusing only on for-profits, we are not being objective, and we are ignoring the bigger picture of what is happening across all of higher education. … The for-profit sector should not be examined in a vacuum,” Enzi said.

Certainly our higher education as a whole deserves more scrutiny. Especially since students are getting less bang for their buck from even traditional college diplomas. In this economy, graduation does not mean definite employment or good employment, as many young people already know. However, for-profit colleges are a different animal, and they deserve their own level of scrutiny and oversight. This seems to be something the government is ready to provide.

As for you, if you or your children are thinking about a for-profit college, do the research. Make sure you know what graduation and employment rates are like. Find out what kinds of jobs people tend to get after graduation. And — good advice to any college bound student — be wary of how much debt you accrue in the process. Just be aware.

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