For-profit Colleges Fill Education Niche

Imagine a country in which only middle- to upper-class students get into college and access to higher education is severely restricted for lower income students. The disparity between classes would grow and the middle class would erode. No thinking person wants that.

The two articles in the Denver Post too heavily characterized an industry that is misleading students with promises of lucrative careers while ripping off taxpayers in the process. That is simply untrue. For-profit colleges provide much-needed access to quality education to all levels of society and fill a gap in higher education that otherwise would go unfilled.

There was a glaring omission in the articles. The career college industry has been impacted by the recession in positive and negative ways. When people are out of work, they tend to go back to school to upgrade their skills and prepare for new jobs when the economy recovers. This drives enrollments, particularly in career colleges. The recession is a far greater driver of for-profit college enrollments than the fact that enrollment counselors’ salaries can change twice a year. If not, why are non-profit community colleges filled to the brim as well?

Experts tell us that we are in a jobless economic recovery. Students earn their diplomas and begin looking for jobs that just aren’t there — yet. And students in all sectors of higher education receive federally subsidized loans which go into default when the student cannot find work. Your reporter’s statement is very misleading: "Rising defaults on government-backed student loans — a sign that fewer students are getting their money’s worth from their degrees." It doesn’t have anything to do with the worth of their degrees; rather it reflects a government that is unable to create jobs for these students to fill.

Clearly, there have been bad actors in the for-profit college industry, as there are in every industry. And a few changes may be needed. Yet, the CEOs of some of the largest for-profit colleges in the country have expressed the moral obligation they feel to not just enroll students but to graduate them and help them find jobs.

If for-profit schools are actually ripping off students and taxpayers, they won’t survive. But to the extent they are successful, a free market has and will continue to reward them.


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