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For-profit Higher Education
Wherever problems lurk, there’s a slew of possible solutions for sale. So the ever-daunting challenge of enrolling the right mix of students was bound to spawn a big business, one that helps colleges fill their beds and polish their reputations. Over the last few decades, dozens of companies peddling enrollment-management advice and services have built a multibillion-dollar industry, which is now attracting players from other sectors.
It was once among the country’s most successful public companies, beloved by Wall Street for its simple, lucrative model: offering degrees to low-income students who borrowed heavily from the government to pay their tuition. But the for-profit college giant Corinthian Colleges has spent much of the year in a tailspin. Corinthian’s schools looked like they were toast. And then an unlikely savior swooped in.
Rick Cohen writes: While the critiques of for-profit colleges have been scathing and constant (such as the article by freelancer Barry Yeoman that slams for-profit colleges for “Potemkin” degrees, fabricated prospects of employment, and leading students into “a lifetime of debt”), no one should be carried away that attaching “nonprofit” to higher education makes colleges and universities all hunky dory.
The U.S. Treasury Department soon will take some student borrowers' accounts away from private debt collectors and give them to federal workers, an ambitious new pilot project that may result in the government cutting out the student loan middlemen who have gotten rich targeting distressed borrowers. The federal employees will be charged with finding ways to help troubled borrowers make good on their delinquent debts, according to borrower advocates and Obama administration officials who have been briefed on the project. The project may start early next year.
James Marshall Crotty writes: For-profit colleges have taken a beating in the court of public opinion, as former students allege that they were bum rushed into classes that saddled them with enormous debt and into majors of dubious utility that left them unprepared for the merciless 21st century global workforce. Poor and minority students were foremost in mind in the Obama administration’s gainful employment initiative, which strengthens income and job benchmarks that for-profit colleges must meet in return for mission-critical access to federal student loans and grants.
If the relationship between for-profit colleges and military veterans is a controversial one, the law that motivated the controversy is not. The new G.I. Bill, passed in 2008 for veterans serving since September 11, 2001, provides service members with subsidies to pursue higher education. As a thank-you for putting his or her life on the line, an individual veteran could receive tens of thousands of dollars toward a school of their choice.
Tim Hsia & Anna Ivey write: After 9/11, Congress passed a new G.I. Bill modeled after the post-World War II legislation that so powerfully expressed America’s gratitude to its veterans. The original G.I. Bill of 1944 lifted up thousands of veterans and their families, and the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, enacted in 2008, attempts to do the same. Yet higher education today is far more complicated than it was in the 1940s. Perhaps the most troubling phenomenon returning veterans face right now is this: predatory for-profit schools that exploit their G.I. Bill funding and offer them — and taxpayers — very little in return.
For-profit colleges wasted no time in challenging the U.S. Education Department over the latest version of its gainful-employment rule, filing a lawsuit on Thursday in the U.S. District Court here that seeks to overturn the measure.
A recent study finds American higher education to be a “minefield full of dead-ends, trapdoors and false promises.” "One hurdle facing kids leaving high school is that we offer little useful information on pathways between career programs and jobs," said Mary Alice McCarthy, author of the report and a policy analyst at the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C., based think tank.
Is going to university a way of getting on a ladder of opportunity? Or is it a way of descending into debt that will outweigh any promised advantages? It's a question that faces every developed economy where going to higher education has moved from an academic minority to a mainstream career pathway.