President Obama has dealt another critical blow to the predatory and exploitative practices of the for-profit college industry, which extort millions out of their students, burden them with debt, and delivers sub-par education that limits their ability for future opportunities. On Wednesday, President Obama and the Education Department instituted a new program called the “gainful employment” tool that tracks the post-graduate successes of students from for-profit colleges and tracks their earning ability. The program then cuts off funding for the colleges if they don’t perform well, instantly putting 1,400 programs on the chopping block.
The fraudulent and harmful practices of the industry have long been under scrutiny from Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, in addition to the Justice Department, who just hit the Education Affiliates for-profit college chain with a $13 million fine for falsifying aid claims. The industry expanded with ravenous growth after George W. Bush’s deregulation, and now accounts for only 11% of students but 44% of student debt defaults, because graduates cannot find good education with the poor education or even fake diplomas they’ve received- the Department of Education reported that an astonishing 72% of for-profit college graduates make less than highschool dropouts do.
An internal memo from the no-longer existent Corinthian Colleges Inc. explicitly said that their targeted demographics were “‘isolated,’ ‘impatient’ individuals with ‘low self-esteem,’ who have few people who care about them, and who are ‘stuck’ and ‘unable to see and plan for the future.” Such an offensive statement clearly shows that the colleges in this business are in it solely for the money and show no regard for the future or well-being of the students that attend their colleges under false promises.
In addition to all the abhorrent crimes mentioned above, the for-profit colleges also regularly lie in their reports to the government, while collecting over $22 billion in taxpayer loans. Corinthian Colleges, who received a $30 million fine for their fraud, in one instance told the government that an accounting major was “working in her field”- as a food service employee at a Taco Bell.
President Obama has shown again that he is on the side of America’s youth and is fighting to make sure they have a fair chance to get a quality education and opportunities for the future. The entire for-profit college phenomenon is a scheme by free-market fascists to privatize every aspect of our educational system. Republicans from Mitt Romney to Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush all support for-profit colleges, but predatory capitalism has no place in our educational system- not in our elementary schools and not in higher education either.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.