The New York Times suggests in an article published over the weekend that for-profit colleges drive students into debt, luring them in with promises of future wealth and then feasting on their aid dollars.
"Critics say many schools exaggerate the value of their degree programs, selling young people on dreams of middle-class wages while setting them up for default on untenable debts, low-wage work and a struggle to avoid poverty," the article says, in a summing-up passage we in the business call a "nut graf."
The gist of the piece is that for-profit schools overstate the market value of their degrees, charge as much as they dare, then leave students more indebted and less marketable than promised.
For-profits have a reputation within the industry for operating much like any other for-profit company: smart, efficient and effective, but ultimately driven by profit rather than the creation of knowledge.
The for-profits have come out swinging.
Harris Miller, CEO of the Career College Association, writes in a statement of the sector’s "critically important role in educating almost 10% of college students, many of whom would otherwise be shut out of higher education."
Tuition at for-profits averages $14,174, a figure roughly midway between the sticker price of state schools and private non-profits. Two-year career colleges graduate students at twice the rate of community colleges.
"Career colleges are a key to restoring this country’s global educational and economic standing," he writes. "Our schools play an essential role in helping the United States lower unemployment, fill jobs in key industries, and increase the number of college graduates dramatically by 2020."
The industry’s 2.8 million students would be "insulted," he writes, at being branded "The New Poor," the title of the newspaper’s ongoing series.