Don’t miss out on our next NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon:

For-profit colleges: A helpful solution or part of what ails higher education?

NCPW-CC-2015-09-29-Barmak-Nassirian-edit-400x270-webFeaturing Barmak Nassirian, Director of Federal Relations and Policy Analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities

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The rapid growth of for-profit colleges is one of the most important phenomena to impact American higher education in decades. Spurred by pervasive advertising and recruiting, the spread of online learning and the challenges of the 21st century economy, more and more Americans are turning to for-profit schools in hopes of boosting their employment and income prospects. Some conservative think tanks even argue that for-profit colleges can and should supplant public and nonprofit schools as the chief vehicle for delivering higher education.

Unfortunately, for many students, for-profit colleges have failed to deliver. Indeed, for a sizable number of students, the experience has been similar to what one would expect from a high-cost, predatory lender: slick and deceptive ads, poor service and mountains of debt. As advocates at the North Carolina Justice Center’s Predatory For-Profit Schools Project explain here, the industry is rife with sketchy operators who take advantage of vulnerable consumers.

So, where do things currently stand and where are they going? What is the true nature of the for-profit college industry and what does it portend for public and nonprofit schools? What are federal law and policymakers doing about the issue?

Please join us as we explore these questions and others with Barmak Nassirian. Mr. Nassirian the Director of Federal Relations and Policy Analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. In this role, he coordinates federal relations and legislative, regulatory, and public policy for AASCU. Nassirian is also a nationally known policy analyst and expert on federal student aid. He has worked for decades with an extensive network of contacts on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, with the Obama Administration and within key federal agencies, as well as with the media and the broader national higher education community.

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When: Tuesday, September 29, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or


The Pope Center for Higher Education is out with a new article in which it laments the fact that student loan debt and loan defaults are both up in North Carolina.  This is obviously not an unimportant problem and so good for them for raising it.

As one might have suspected, however, the group’s conclusion as to why this is so and what ought to be done about it are mostly the usual market fundamentalist gibberish.

According to the Pope people, too many North Carolinians go to college — especially minority students who go to HBCU’s. The “solution,” therefore, is for all those kids who are trying to better themselves to cut it out. Better to get a job in retail or fast food and get on with life as a cog in the new post-industrial North Carolina.

Uh, earth to Pope people: Your article never mentions the word “tuition” except to say that it’s generally lower in HBCU’s.  In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s been skyrocketing in the UNC system in recent years as conservatives have repeatedly slashed the state’s commitment to higher education.

A critical and obvious part of the solution to the problem of rising student debt — notwithstanding the Pope group’s denials — is to lower tuition and the other costs associated with higher education.  That an article would purport to discuss the problem of rising student debt without even paying lip service to the rapidly rising cost of attending college (or for that matter, the proliferation of predatory, for-profit colleges) is a testament to the amazingly powerful blinders with which the ideologues on Right Wing Avenue view the world and dispense their toxic policy prescriptions.


Raleigh’s News & Observer ran a piece today implying that President Obama was somehow unfair to Congresswoman Virginia Foxx when he took her to task for the inane comments she recently made about student loans on, of all places, the Gordon Liddy Show. (As an aside, the mere fact that a member of Congress would go on the radio with that deranged old criminal ought to be grounds enough to criticize her).

Anyway, the N&O piece criticizes Obama for, it would seem, slightly misquoting Foxx. As it turns out, however, Obama was on the mark and the article gets its facts wrong.

Here is what Obama said: “One Republican congresswoman said just recently – I am going to quote this because I know you guys will think I’m making this up. She said she had ‘ very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt because there’s no reason for that.”’

Here is what Foxx really said (according to the Huffington Post):  “I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that.”

Wow! What a shocking omission! Obama left out the specific dollar amounts Foxx mentioned. Is that really deserving of a news story? And does it really then provide justification for the N&O to tack on the following paragraph about Foxx’s supposed Horatio Alger upbringing? Read More


As Clayton Henkel reports above, President Obama was in the state today to press his case for renewing federal student loan laws that will keep interest rates at least semi-affordable for students. Meanwhile, in a rather remarkable bit of rhetorical gymnastics, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner tried to blame the Prez and Democrats for the fact that loan rates will go up without congressional action — action that Boehner and his buddies have been trying to stop!

Fortunately, Steve Benen puts Boehner in his place at the Maddow blog.


Here (as highlighted by this story) are two additional good reasons not to cut public spending on higher education and thereby make it more unaffordable, as recommended by the right-wingers:

 #1 – Lower tuition (like we have here in North Carolina) means smaller loans, which clearly contributes to lower default rates. According to the story (citing the U.S. Department of Education), North Carolina’s student loan default rate of 5.9% is the lowest in the southeast and among the lowest in the country.

#2- For-profit vultures love to swoop in and suck up publicly-backed loans. Anything we can do to minimize this phenomenon — like keeping public education affordable and accessible is a good thing.