Only 22% Graduate

Average tuition rates of for-profit colleges are double those of public universities, and five times that of community colleges.There’s a certain prejudice I’ll admit to: I question most of the for-profit colleges. Now before the for-profit wonks jump all over me, let me tell you why.

Basically, most have low quality, charge extremely high tuitions, prey on the under-educated, and in recent years, have taken advantage of government funding in the case of people who are, or have been, in the military. In addition, most are not approved by the standard accrediting agencies.

Think about it: America’s great universities have served our country for years under the non-profit mantle, or either as a public-supported (state) center of learning. Now these for-profit schools have elbowed their way to present questionable offerings that do not serve our nation well.

We are not talking about some far-off schools. Some of are located within Gwinnett, such as the University of Phoenix, and Ashworth College in Technology Park. Most boast accreditation, but even that is questionable. Ashworth, for instance, says it is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council, not your standard accrediting agency. But few of these for-profit schools are accredited by any regional agency, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the agency overseeing most traditional Southern schools. That alone should give any potential enrollee pause.

What are some of the drawbacks of for-profit colleges. Take note:

  • Average tuition rates of for-profit colleges are double those of public universities, and five times that of community colleges.
  • Nearly 50 percent of for profit monies are spent on either advertising, marketing or lobbying, rather than on education! 
  • One school had more than 50,000 students, but only 50 full-time faculty members. And at this school, in a five year period, half its 240,000 students enrolled in that period withdrew from school, adding nothing but profit to the school’s bottom line. 
  • In 2008, the for-profit schools graduated only 22 percent of enrolled students. Another 54 percent withdrew from school without completing a degree!

Many groups are getting upset over such practices, including Congress. For instance, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who spent three years investigating this area, is quoted: “The for-profit schools, because of their business model, target low income people, because the lower your income, the more Pell Grants you get and the more student loans you’re eligible for. So it’s in (the for-profit colleges’) business interest to go after those poor students.” He adds that for-profit college students take out more student loans, default more often, and have higher unemployment than students at traditional colleges.

For-profit colleges have particularly focused on the military’s active duty and veterans. Recently 20 state attorneys general got a court settlement from one marketing firm working in behalf of for-profit colleges. The firm, GIBill.com, was shut down after the firm steered people to “shoddy” for-profit colleges. These firms and the colleges have taken advantage of loopholes in the law to pad their pockets, with little regard for the day-to-day struggling students.

The for-profit industry is wise, in employing multiple lobbyists. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois feels: “You get little or nothing done when you take on the for-profit schools, since they own every lobbyist in town.”

The eminent Nobel laureate and chief economist of the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, has written that for-profit colleges “exploit those at the bottom” of society and that they are “better at exploitation than at delivering a valuable education.”

Students at most for-profit colleges tend to wind up in debt, with no degree. Most all who graduates from these schools earns less than peers who went to traditional schools. That’s why we’re prejudiced against for-profit schools.

###
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.