But the bilking of taxpayers, parents and students should come as no surprise to those familiar with the rise of for-profit colleges over the past two decades. These schools – owned by large, publicly-traded corporations – rely federal financial aid for over 80 percent of their revenue, according to a report released in July by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa.
His two-year investigation found that while students of for-profit colleges make up just 13 percent of nationwide college enrollment, they account for 47 percent of loan defaults. The average cost for a degree from these schools is four times that of a public university degree, but this fact is carefully omitted from the aggressive sales pitch of their “academic counselors” – who receive bonuses based on the number of students enrolled.
These companies may be profitable, but they are only entrepreneurs and innovators insofar as they’ve found innovative ways to suckle from the taxpayer teat. Entrepreneurs thrive by selling a product consumers need at a price they can afford, not by brazen raids on the state and federal treasuries. To allow our education system to be auctioned off to such politically connected shysters is a recipe for national catastrophe.
JUSTIN VERNOLD is a copy editor at The Daily Star. Contact him at 432-1000, ext. 216 or email@example.com.