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Comments about ‘For-profit colleges get an 'F'’

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Published: Friday, Aug. 3 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

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Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

Although I believe in the power of markets for many situations, for profit education is one of the shining examples of where the profit motive and the mission simply do not mix.

In political debate after political debate some folks say that the answer is always more of the marketplace. But there are situations where the marketplace fails. And this is one of them.

The problem is not simply the availability of govt. loans. Those are available to state and private non-profits as well with wildly different results. I believe the difference is that the educational mission comes first.

I bring this up only to show that the marketplace is neither all powerful nor applicable to every problem in our lives. Sometimes govt. supported and non-profit entities are the preferred answer.

  • 7:05 a.m. Aug. 3, 2012
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SEY
Sandy, UT

Seriously? The education mission comes first in government-financed schools? Wow, have they got you fooled!

It's ALWAYS about money in private or public schools. If government grants and loans (made possible by tax subsidies) were not so freely available, the cost of education wouldn't have risen almost as fast as health care costs. In both cases, costs have gotten out of control because neither the student nor the patient is largely responsible for payment. When you have a third-party footing the bill, who cares how much it costs? Of course, students SHOULD pay the bill, but the default rates are currently hovering around 9% and rising.

A report released by the Education Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides new estimates for total outstanding student loan debt: more than $1 trillion in 2011, composed of $864 billion in federal government loans and $150 billion in private student loan debt. It's now part of the sub-prime loan mess hanging over the economy's head that could be the next down-leg toward economic collapse.

There's plenty of greed going on in public education, too. Don't let them fool you.

SEY
Sandy, UT

Here's the effect that government aid has on the price of education as explained by one researcher:

"When the government made it exceptionally easy for students to borrow massive amounts of money, the colleges followed the lead by increasing their tuition rates. This combination led to record-level borrowing. Today the average undergraduate student loan debt is nearing $20,000. Those who go on to graduate school often end up with an additional $30,000. Law and medical students report an average accumulated debt from all years (undergraduate and graduate study) of $91,700."

Public AND private schools will charge what the market will bear. It's not all about the student in either case. It's about money. Personal enrichment takes place in both cases.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

SEY,

In the schools I and my kids have been involved with, yes it has – both at the college and K-12 level. I have sent my kids to private and public schools. My kids have gone to public colleges as well as private non-profit, and private for-profit. The pattern is clear. The non-profit and public schools provide a much better product for the money. Period. The for-profits do a terrible job of anything except collecting the money.

Your point about cost vs. the availability of student loans is a separate issue and one I have not addressed here. But if your child attends a non-profit or public college (even with similar costs to the private for-profit college) they are getting a much better deal and are more likely to graduate.

As to them all being about money? I thought we liked the profit motive? But even if you do think money comes first to both, there is still the issue that the non-profits and the public colleges come far closer to meeting their mission.

cjb
Bountiful, UT

My son's friend got a 2 year degree from one of the for profit schools in management/computers. He can't find a job and has about $40,000 in student debt. My guess is he doesnt know enough about either subject to do an employer any good. He now plans to get another degree. I told him before he signs up again he needs to find out if graduates with that particular degree from that particular school get jobs.

SEY
Sandy, UT

@Twin Lights: I understand your perspective, and agree with it for the most part. However, I can't help but feel that money has become the holy grail of most, if not all, institutions of higher learning. While I prefer the profit motive over the taxpayer-funded method, the monkey wrench in this whole scheme is the involvement of government-funded grants and loans at such low rates. That's my primary objection.

The free flow of (free or nearly-free) money has skewed the mission of higher education. Administrations exploit students' access to it to an extreme, raising tuition and fees because they can. Because of it, students are less careful about making educational choices because the consequences of making poor ones are somewhat removed. There is something worthwhile about making every dollar count, making those choices more carefully considered. In many cases, higher education is overrated and, as cjb points out, students are too easily seduced into taking courses that won't help them find a suitable career. College is too often not the answer that their hype would have us believe.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

SEY,

I feel that the hyper money focus is something in the wider society. As to colleges, I think it depends. Colleges do find themselves in stiff competition and they feel the need to be constantly upgrading as well. It explains but does not excuse the problem.

I have no problem with your point about making the dollars count. I think that post-secondary education is essential. But the focus of that education should not always be the four year variety. For many kids, a two year trade program and certifications is best. Also, we need to de-stigmatize vocational programs at the high school level. Finally, the choice of any college program should be evaluated in contrast to its cost and the earning potential of the program.

Does the student loan thing cause colleges to rope students into nonsensical programs? Yes but I think the problem is many times worse at the for-profit colleges. As I said, I have dealt with both state and non-profit colleges and found them far superior in serving the students vs. the for-profit variety.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

The only consideration that is valid is whether the college provides a "good education". That's what the student is paying for. He should expect that he will leave college with a college education - assuming that he does his part.

How he pays for that education is not relevant. No one is forced to borrow for education. Anyone can work his way through college, even if that means that he will work one year and then attend school for one year, repeating that process until he receives his diploma.

For Obama, or anyone else, to tell us that kids are owed a college education is absurd. Just because Obama has never worked a day in his life does not mean that WE should follow his example. Anyone who has measured his performance as President can clearly see that his college education has not made this country any better. Most would say that his education has nearly destroyed us.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

Mike:

You were making some cogent points and then you had to go "Obama." I get it, you're a right-wing guy. You don't like the President. But I doubt you could honestly say he hasn't worked a day in his life. My problem with the President is not that he doesn't work hard but maybe he could work effectively. I figure he must have done pretty well in school do get to where he is at as well, regardless of whether you and I agree with his politics.

As for these for-profit colleges, a few are good, most are rip offs. Mike has a good point, getting a student loan probably isn't a good idea. Many less expensive colleges can give you just as good of an education and yes working one's way through school and taking some time off to do some might be a wiser route in the end.

Emajor
Ogden, UT

Mike,
I'm surprised you didn't notice your rational argument going straight into the sewer the moment you started ranting about Obama. Turn on the filter when you're typing.

"Obama has never worked a day in his life"

Are you joking or just so angry that you invent these things and believe them to be true? Obama is a self-made millionaire. He didn't start out as a millionaire, he worked hard and built his career. You may not like that fact, but there it is. And please, if you think most of us believe he has destroyed this country, explain how his approval numbers are so much higher than Congress. And please describe the crystal ball that told you McCain/Palin wouldn't have left us with a worse economy. Oh, that's right, the crystal ball doesn't exist. You just assume your party would have done better despite an absence of fact.

Wally West
SLC, UT

re: Mike R...

Oh, yawn. If memory serves, a certain religious sect said borrowing for an education was okay long before Obama's so called entitlement/

Curious: Where would America be w/o a little thing called the GI bill post WW2 & Korea? As well as Pell grants, Stafford Students loans, etc...?

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