Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Latest from the Exciting World of For-Profit Colleges

ITT Technical Institutes has collapsed, and is closing all its campuses. Good riddance to a "school" that paid a lot of attention to its stock price and practically none to educating its students. A few snippets from the Times story:
With Wall Street demanding steady growth, the pressure on the company’s managers was relentless. The chain was adding eight to 10 new campuses a year, according to the Senate committee. Former employees said recruiters pushed to enroll more and more students — regardless of their preparation, chances of graduating or ability to repay their loans — even as the company pared instructional costs and raised tuition to increase profits. . . .

Aggrieved students, graduates who found their degrees of little value, even insiders who became whistle-blowers turned to online websites and watchdog groups. Many filed complaints with state prosecutors and regulators, the Education Department and lawmakers.

They reported deceptive marketing; strong-arm recruitment tactics; misleading information about costs, courses, graduation and job placement rates; inflated enrollment numbers; bait-and-switch schemes; subpar instruction; and more.

Ms. Wofford of Veterans Education Success said that every time the government tried to clamp down on an abuse, some for-profit colleges would come up with a scheme to circumvent the rule, like a private loan program set up by ITT to keep the pipeline of federal funds flowing.

“There’s a perniciousness that’s disturbing,” Ms. Wofford said.
If you ask me, that disturbing perniciousness pervades the whole field of for-profit technical education. These "colleges" are trying to compete with community colleges, which get big state subsidies and tax breaks and often have cooperative deals with employers that bring in even more money. To make money the for-profit schools have to charge significantly more than community colleges charge, and only a few very specialized schools have been able to provide instruction that is meaningfully better. So they are essentially reduced to operating a scam. They find ignorant students who don't know they could get the same classes for less elsewhere and extract the maximum amount of student loan money from them before they either 1) drop out, or 2) graduate and realize they've been had.

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