Civil Rights Groups: For-Profit Colleges Exploit Black and Latino Students

Education News 10.17,19


Kristen Voorhees, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, [email protected], 202.548.7166
Stanley Augustin, Lawyers’ Committee, [email protected], 202.487.8296
Ricardo Quinto, Center for Responsible Lending, [email protected], 202.349.1866
Gabriela Gomez, UnidosUS, [email protected], 202.776.1732
Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP, [email protected], 202.463.2940


WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference Education Fund released its policy brief, “Gainful Employment: A Civil Rights Perspective,” today describing the exploitation of Black and Latino students by for-profit colleges and urging the Department of Education to enforce the Higher Education Act and protect students. Twenty-one civil rights, consumer lending, and education groups signed onto the brief, demanding Secretary DeVos propose a new rule to advance equity and protect students’ civil rights.

The policy brief demonstrates that for-profit colleges disproportionately enroll African American and Latino students and leave those students with low-quality credentials and high amounts of debt. While students deserve a path toward educational and economic opportunity, for-profit colleges are closing doors and creating barriers. For-profit colleges account for 33 percent of all student loan defaults even though they make up only 9 percent of total postsecondary enrollment.

“Higher education should open doors to new opportunities, not close them through crushing debt and a low-quality degree,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “Our gainful employment brief demonstrates the magnitude of this problem and offers concrete steps to ensure African American and Latino students are not exploited in their pursuit of higher education. The Education Department must do its job in ensuring that students are treated fairly and have access to the education that will allow them to succeed in careers and life.”

“A strong gainful employment rule is urgently needed to hold predatory for-profit institutions accountable for harmful practices that sink vulnerable African American and Latino students further into debt and exacerbate existing racial disparities in educational opportunities,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We call on the Department of Education to immediately issue a new rule that puts students first and holds for-profit institutions accountable.”

“We must hold accountable predatory for-profit colleges that disproportionately lure students of color and their families into enrolling in high-cost, low quality programs,” said Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending. “These institutions reap profits off taxpayer-funded financial aid and their poor outcomes contribute to the nation’s still growing $1.5 trillion student debt crisis. Higher education should be the bridge to a better quality of life instead of a mountain of debt that financially buries consumers.”

“Strong protections are necessary for Latino students seeking a quality education to ensure that they do not fall prey to more expensive, low quality, for-profit higher education programs,” said Eric Rodriguez, vice president of policy and advocacy at UnidosUS. “A strong gainful employment regulation will help protect Latino students from predatory institutions that are more focused on their own financial bottom-line than the career and post-secondary success of their students.”

“This brief reinforces the need for a comprehensive Gainful Employment rule that protects all students from predatory for-profit colleges,” said Hilary O. Shelton, director to the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and senior vice president for advocacy and policy. “When these institutions target communities of color with high-cost, low-quality educational programs, they not only perpetuate our current system of income inequality but also exacerbate it. African Americans and other people of color experience a disparate impact, paying an outrageous price while investors line their pockets. The Education Department must protect our most marginalized communities rather than shielding those who profit off their exclusion.”

The brief outlines specific criteria that a new gainful employment rule must meet in order to advance equity and protect the civil rights of all students, including removing Title IV eligibility for failing programs; making students whole if they are enrolled in substandard programs; ensuring students can pay back their loans; rewarding low-cost programs with less student borrowing; and ensuring students have the information they need.


The brief in its entirety can be found here.

The full list of signatories is below.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund
American Federation of Teachers
Augustus F. Hawkins Foundation
Center for Responsible Lending
Children’s Defense Fund
Education Law Center – PA
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund
National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE)
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Youth Law
National Consumer Law Center
National Education Association
National LGBTQ Task Force
National Urban League
The Education Trust
The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS)


The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. For more information on The Education Fund, visit

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 56th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.

The Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and policy organization dedicated to protecting homeownership and family wealth by working to eliminate abusive financial practices.

UnidosUS, previously known as NCLR (National Council of La Raza), is the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Through its unique combination of expert research, advocacy, programs, and an Affiliate Network of nearly 300 community-based organizations across the United States and Puerto Rico, UnidosUS simultaneously challenges the social, economic, and political barriers at the national and local levels. For almost 50 years, UnidosUS has united communities and different groups seeking common ground through collaboration, and that share a desire to make our country stronger. For more information on UnidosUS, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas by visiting