Phi Beta Cons

The For-Profit Problem

For the life of me, I don’t understand why conservatives continue to defend the for-proft colleges. The Pope Center objects rightly and strenuously to the overselling of the college degree. Well, the for-profits are taking that overselling and squaring it, making sure even more people start thinking that they must have a college degree. They are charging high tuition for cooking skills, for example, that people could get at entry-level restaurant jobs. Why should we praise them, or even excuse them, for being more successful at such an objectionable activity? Yes, the problem is federal loans and grants, but that doesn’t excuse adding a whole other dimension of “higher” education to take money from the federal purse, and to put it into the pockets of “investors” at that. Their “profits” are something like 80 percent taxpayer money. The loans the students take are higher, the default rate is greater, and students wind up in debt and often do not find suitable employment.

This is from a New York Times article:

“They tell people, ‘If you don’t have a college degree, you won’t be able to get a job,’” said Amanda Wallace, who worked in the financial aid and admissions offices at the Knoxville, Tenn., branch of ITT Technical Institute, a chain of schools that charge roughly $40,000 for two-year associate degrees in computers and electronics. “They tell them, ‘You’ll be making beaucoup dollars afterward, and you’ll get all your financial aid covered.’ ”

Ms. Wallace left her job at ITT in 2008 after five years because she was uncomfortable with what she considered deceptive recruiting, which she said masked the likelihood that graduates would earn too little to repay their loans.

As a financial-aid officer, Ms. Wallace was supposed to counsel students. But candid talk about job prospects and debt obligations risked the wrath of management, she said.

“If you said anything that went against what the recruiter said, they would threaten to fire you,” Ms. Wallace said. “The representatives would have already conned them into doing it, and you had to just keep your mouth shut.”


Jeffrey West was working at a pet store near Philadelphia, earning about $8 an hour, when he saw advertisements for training programs offered by WyoTech, a chain of trade schools owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc., a publicly traded company that last year reported revenue of $1.3 billion.

After Mr. West called the school, an admissions representative drove to his house to sell him on classes in auto body refinishing and upholstering technology, a nine-month program that cost about $30,000.

Mr. West blanched at the tuition, he recalled, but the representative assured him the program amounted to an antidote to hard economic times.

“They said they had a very high placement rate, somewhere around 90 percent,” he said. “That was one of the key factors that caused me to go there. They said I would be earning $50,000 to $70,000 a year.”

Some 14 months after he completed the program, Mr. West, 21, has failed to find an automotive job. He is working for $12 an hour weatherizing foreclosed houses.


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