Commentary

The “genius” of the market: For-profit colleges are ripping off NC students, targeting African-Americans

For-profit collegesIn case you missed it, the good folks at the Center for Responsible Lending released a powerful new report recently highlighting the destructive impact that scammers in the for-profit college industry are inflicting on thousands of students they’re supposed to be helping. This is from a summary prepared by co-author Whitney Barkley:

High costs, low graduation rates, and complaints trigger CRL analysis

As higher education costs continue to rise, new research by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) analyzes the debts and outcomes resulting from a wide-ranging choice of institutions – both public and private nonprofits and for-profit colleges located in North Carolina. NC Student Loan Calculus found that choices in higher education can either be a boost or a burden to students and their families.

“When borrowers who attend public and private colleges leave school,” states the report, “they can afford to repay their loans. By contrast, North Carolina’s for-profit post-secondary institutions are more expensive and borrowers are less likely to be able to repay their loans when they leave. … [T]he question is not merely one of dealing with outstanding debt, but rather whether the underlying degree is a product that is one of value.”

Data for the most recent year available shows that North Carolina’s 79 for-profit, 2-year and 4-year institutions enrolled 21,579 students. Students at the 2-year, for-profit institutions graduated with 170 percent – $16,533 – of the debt load of comparable 2-year public colleges at $9,728.

Less than half of the state’s for-profit student borrowers – 42 percent – are able to make their college loan repayment, the percentage of borrowers who are able to pay even one dollar towards the principal of their loan after three years. By comparison, 70 percent of student borrowers from the state’s private colleges and 62 percent of public college borrowers are able to make their loan repayments.

The state’s for-profit colleges are also disproportionately African-American. At 51 percent of enrollment, it is a level almost two times greater than those at the state’s public and private institutions. This high minority enrollment is in spite of the fact that North Carolina is home to 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The public HBCUs also have average completion rates that are nearly triple the graduation rates of students enrolled in 4-year, for-profit colleges.

“This report seems to be telling us that students of color are being targeted by these for-profit colleges that have a history of low graduations, high debt, and leave students with few if any marketable skills,” said Mrs. Andrea Harris, Founder and Senior Fellow at the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development, also known as the ‘Institute’….

CRL’s report also notes that since 2012, the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office has pursued a series of investigations that have led to favorable consumer victories.

The bottom line: Here, yet again, is compelling evidence debunking the myth that “free markets” and “competition” will somehow lift up education. The solution lies in improving public and nonprofit K-12 and higher education with better funding, tougher standards, better oversight and an commitment to treat learning as a binding, common good force in society rather than a mere commodity that one buys and sells like soap or deodorant.

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