The hard truth about for-profit colleges that Virginia Foxx doesn’t want to hear

Rep. Virginia Foxx

In case you missed it, be sure to check out an excellent op-ed that ran in the Winston- Salem Journal on Sunday by Kelly Tornow of the Center for Responsible Lending. In it Tornow tells some hard truths about for-profit colleges and puts one of the industry’s top defenders, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, in her place.

As Tornow explains, for-profit colleges frequently produce poor results at an exorbitant, debt-inducing cost:

At a recent hearing on Capitol Hill about higher education, Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina complained about the attention given to problems with for-profit colleges. She said, “To sit here and grind a tired old ax against certain types of institutions you don’t like is just disgraceful.”

But for-profit colleges have a bad reputation for good reason. And in North Carolina, this is no exception.

In fact, a key indicator shows that for-profit colleges in North Carolina have the lowest completion rates in the nation. While public four-year colleges in the state have a completion rate of 56.4%, for-profit four-year programs have an abysmal 16.1% completion rate.

Poor for-profit college outcomes mean lifelong consequences for North Carolina families, particularly people of color, low-income students, women and veterans – ignoring that fact is the true disgrace.

Consider the costs of an expensive, but substandard educational experience. North Carolina for-profit graduates carry over $30,000 in debt at graduation, compared to $23,000 for public students. Since for-profit colleges do such a poor job of preparing students for careers, for-profit college students also have much higher default rates on their student loans.

To make matters worse, Tornow points out, for-profit colleges frequently mask their lousy performance with slick marketing schemes that differ little from predatory lenders while they prey on vulnerable communities and suck up federal education dollars. Now, predictably, the Trump administration is trying to hinder oversight and regulation of the industry.

Here’s Tornow’s on-the-money conclusion:

The U.S. Department of Education is attempting to delay, suspend and rewrite rules that hold for-profits accountable. So Congress should maintain their focus on for-profit colleges as they grapple with responses to the crisis. And states like North Carolina should step up as the feds are stepping back and pass basic measures that give them the tools to oversee for-profit colleges and protect students within our borders.

We can increase oversight and scrutiny of for-profit schools based on poor performance on key indicators like graduation rates, cohort default rates, and job placement rates, requiring that schools meet these basic standards in order to remain licensed. And since for-profits spend much more on advertising and recruiting than on actually teaching their students, states can require, for example, that for-profit schools reverse that and offer value closer to that of public schools, spending more on education than advertising.

The widespread “dislike” of for-profit colleges held up by Rep. Foxx is not arbitrary. What folks don’t like about these institutions is plain and simple. They tend to rake in federal education funds and leave students with heavy debt and no degree or one of little value. With that kind of performance, what is there to like?

Click here to read the entire essay.

 

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