The Broken Promises of For-Profit Colleges
(OAKLAND, CA) The Education Trust—West issued the following statement regarding the release of a new report on for-profit colleges and universities by its national office, The Education Trust:
In California, for-profit institutions are growing at a rapid rate in a time when state support for higher education is declining. In opening their doors to—and often directly targeting—disadvantaged students, these schools offer the promise of college and career opportunities. But how effectively are they fulfilling students’ dreams of a great career, and at what cost?
In The Education Trust’s newly released report entitled, ‘Subprime Opportunity: The Unfulfilled Promise of For-Profit Colleges and Universities,’ the sharp increase in enrollment at for-profit universities is clearly presented. The number of students enrolled nationwide in for-profit colleges has increased 236 percent over the past 10 years.
For-profits serve a large proportion of students from California’s underserved communities and communities of color. In 2008, 29 percent of students in California for-profits were from low-income backgrounds, and 31 percent were African-American, Latino, or Native American. While for-profit institutions have the potential to provide more access to higher education, the report illustrates a crisis in lost opportunities. For-profit graduation rates are appallingly low. Only 27 percent of first-time bachelor’s degree-seeking students in California, who enroll full-time in for-profit institutions actually graduated after six years.
Students at for-profits often incur debts that can burden them and their families for decades, regardless of whether they graduate. While for-profit institutions insist that their low graduation rates are a function of the populations they serve, this report highlights the fact that some non-profit institutions with similar admissions policies and comparable percentages of low-income students are able to graduate their students at higher rates.
In addition, not only can tuition be higher at for-profit institutions, but the out-of-pocket cost for students after receiving grant aid can be higher than private, non-profit colleges and universities. As a result, students can incur huge, often lifelong debts that they are unable to repay.
“Given the expanding role of for-profits and their poor results, it is clear that they need greater oversight,” stated Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust—West, a statewide education advocacy organization that works to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement for students of color and students in poverty. “The harsh reality behind many of the television commercials touting the benefits of for-profits is the individual broken dreams of thousands of California students. We owe our students a real chance at higher education and the great careers that will fulfill their dreams and re-invigorate California’s economy.”
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