April 2, 2012

4-Year Students At For-Profit Colleges Graduate Less Than Half As Often As Other Students, But Their Schools Do Create Jobs — For Lobbyists

A brand-new report from the National Center for Education Statistics confirms once again that for-profit colleges are failing to help many of their students.  These schools, many marked by deceptive recruiting, low-quality programs, and sky-high prices, have 13 percent of U.S. students but nearly 50 percent of student loan defaults.  The for-profit college industry gets most of its $30 billion-plus annual revenue from federal financial aid; many for-profit schools obtain 90 percent of their income through federal student grants and loans.  They use a good chunk of this money to lobby Congress and provide campaign contributions to Members with the aim of avoiding accountability for their subprime programs.

Here’s a stat from the new report that shows the low graduation rate of for-profits:

The report also underscores how expensive these for-profit schools are, despite their weak programs.  For full-time students attending four-year public colleges or universities, average price before financial aid grants was about $16,900 and $10,200 after; for nonprofit private schools, the average price before grant aid was about $32,700 and after aid $16,700; and for for-profit colleges, average price before grants was about $27,900 and $23,800 after – which, coupled with the high dropout rate, makes plain why so many for-profit college students are left with insurmountable debt .

It also explains why for-profit colleges hire high-priced lobbyists and communications consultants to make campaign contributions to so many legislators and candidates like Mitt Romney: The facts are not on their side, so they need to make money talk.

These lobbyists (like Trent Lott) always argue that for-profits are the only ones helping low-income people and thus should be given a pass. But the whole point of new rules by the Obama Administration, fiercely resisted by the industry, is to reward schools that help students learn and get jobs, and to withhold aid from schools that hurt most of their students.  No amount of for-profit college lobbying or TV ads — paid for with your tax dollars — should obscure that reality.