For-Profit Colleges Still Failing to Do Right by Its Students

Good news on states holding for-profits accountable for deceptive practices:

“On Wednesday, 20 state attorneys general announced a court settlement with QuinStreet Inc., a marketing company working for for-profit colleges, that will shut down the deceptive website and turn that web address over to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs., until recently, looked a lot like a government website. But people who went there seeking advice on higher education options were always steered to a for-profit college that paid for the privilege. Deceptive marketing like this, along with coercive recruiting tactics, push thousands of our troops and veterans to shoddy for-profit colleges that have high prices, low-quality educations, high dropout rates, and overwhelming loan debts for students. Many struggling Americans have had their lives ruined by for-profit colleges, but troops and veterans are a particular target for predatory schools because of loopholes in federal law.”

This news comes on the heels of new Department of Education data showing that some for-profits are failing to comply with a new federal rule designed to ensure that career training programs at public, for-profit and non-profit schools are properly educating all of its students for “gainful employment.” According to the department, five percent of these career training programs – all of which are at for-profit institutions – are failing to meet all of the three key requirements of the “gainful employment” rule.

Take into account the department’s September 2011 data showing that the rate of federal student loan defaults has increased more sharply at for-profit institutions than at other institutions of higher learning, and there is still cause for serious concern about the educational benefits of for-profit institutions.

People going to these schools, most of whom are low-income and minority students, women and veterans, often go because they don’t have other options for higher education. But that doesn’t mean that they should get a substandard education. For-profits shouldn’t get the benefit of federal student loan dollars if its curriculum and preparation are so poor that its graduates are not adequately prepared or qualified to get jobs in their chosen field.

This is why civil and human rights groups supported the “gainful employment” rule – and even pushed for it to be stronger.  As Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said when the rule was announced:

“Our nation’s future depends to a large degree on how well we educate the next generation. We will succeed only if we allow students a fair opportunity to obtain the skills and knowledge they need to fully participate in our economy and our society.”