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For Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know

The term “for profit college,” is frequently used in conversations revolving around the topic of higher education in the United States, especially with all the chaos surrounding Betsy Devos’ leadership in the Department of Education. At first glance, the general idea of a for profit college is simple, the name being concise and straight forward in alluding to what the institution’s main goal is, making a profit. However, as simple as this seems, for profit colleges have sprung a heated discussion in the educational community, as some professionals call into question the value and ethical standing of such schools. With Betsy Devos as the head of the Department of Education, for profit schools have become a much bigger issue, and it’s important to know what they are and why they are such a heated topic right now. Here are three basic things you need to know about for profit colleges.

  1. For profit colleges are generally cost more for less. 

For profit colleges can cost up to twice as much as their public counterparts, according to a study done by Student Loan Hero. This makes sense, since for profit colleges are run by business in order to cut a profit, but the extra cash you spend isn’t worth it in the end. For profit education has been shown to be less beneficial than other public or private institutions.

‘For example, six years after enrolling at for-profit colleges, students are more likely to be unemployed than a similar cohort that attended other types of institutions. They also earn less money on average – about $1,800 to $2,000 less, or 8 to 9 percent of their predicted annual incomes,’ Paul Fain writes for Inside Higher Ed. For profit education has students paying a vast amount more, for a lower quality degree.

2. They target lower income people. 

For profit schools have long been under scrutiny for aggressively recruiting low-income students in order to get federal money from financial aid and Pell grants. In fact, in the 2014-2015 school year, nearly 55% of for profit schools had at least 70% of their income come from financial aid or other federal money. In addition to the vast amount of federal money for profit institutions take in, they also consistently sell students an education they cannot afford. According to three Harvard researchers, 1 in 4 students from for profit schools will default on their loans only three years after graduating. This means that the degrees that students are getting from these colleges aren’t making them enough money to pay themselves back, if the graduates manage to get a job at all. Six years after college, graduates are more likely to be unemployed for significant periods of time than they are to land good, long lasting jobs. 

3. Betsy Devos is choosing to side against students on the for profit college debate. 

Surprise, surprise! Betsy Devos sides with business over people. Devos cut off many of the policies the Obama administration implemented, like the gainful employment rule, which stopped federal loan payments to schools if the students couldn’t make enough to pay the loans back. While Devos was sued for this move, her defense of for profit schools sets an unsurprising precedent. It doesn’t matter to Betsy Devos or the entire Trump administration that for profit colleges sell more expensive, lower quality education to students who can’t afford it, because they understand business much better than people.

Photo: H. Michael Miley/Flickr

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Sam Boyce
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17 years old, senior in high school, wandering around in Michigan.

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