Stronger Law Needed to Focus on Students; Education; Higher Education Predators Taking Advantage of System; OTHER VIEWS
Madigan, Lisa, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
For-profit schools have been in the news a lot lately ("Bubble busters, July 11), and it generally has not been good press. In my office, we know many of the horror stories from students who have fallen victim to for-profit schools' deceptive and predatory practices. After we sued Westwood College for misleading students about the cost and quality of its criminal justice program, we heard from more than 1,000 students who had sought to better themselves with advanced training but instead found themselves with as much as $70,000 in debt for a worthless degree and limited job prospects.
Veterans have become particular targets of for-profit schools' hard-sell tactics. After Congress authorized billions of education dollars in the post 9/11 GI Bill, a loophole in the law allowed many for-profit schools to exploit veterans' benefits as a way to maximize their revenue. A congressional study indicated that for- profit schools' revenue from veterans' benefits increased by 683 percent from 2006-2010, yet these schools post far higher dropout rates and loan default rates than public institutions. (For-profit schools account for 13 percent of all college students but represent 47 percent of all student loan defaults.)
Left unchecked, this industry promises to produce a generation of students who are under-educated and saddled with crushing debt and years of financial instability. My office continues to investigate for-profit schools, and I am working with federal officials to advocate for stronger laws to ensure that for-profit schools enrich rather than deceive the students they recruit.
But as with any major financial decision, the best way students can avoid the for-profit schools' trap is to learn about the risks. …