HUFFINGTON POST: Abuses at Corinthian Are Mirrored at Other Big For-Profit Colleges

Career College Central Summary:

  • An education technology executive who previously worked with the for-profit college industry told me last year, "The biggest misconception about for-profits is that they are schools. They are call centers that happen to have a school built around it."
  • That is a deadly accurate insight.
  • Numerous federal and state law enforcement investigations, and media investigations, have exposed an industry desperate to always be closing — signing up as many students as possible for high-priced, questionable quality career education programs, without regard to whether the programs will help a given student, or instead will leave that student unemployed and mired in college loan debt. Often the deals that these for-profit colleges pitch are terrible value for students and thus can only be sold through deceptive and coercive sales tactics.
  • The collapse of for-profit giant Corinthian Colleges, which had been taking as much as $1.4 billion annually in federal student aid at its Everest, Heald, and Wyotech schools, and the shocking revelations of abuses in that company have led some advocates for the for-profit college industry to now claim that Corinthian is an isolated case, the only bad apple. But, as I have written in my e-book and articles, in fact a number of large for-profit colleges are engaged in comparable predatory practices. We might expect similar reports in a detailed series starting Friday in the Miami Herald, the result of a year-long investigation by that paper.
  • Although there are good programs in the industry, many of the for-profit college companies have acted unconscionably, while receiving millions and even billions in federal and state government aid. And the call center — the telephone boiler room, or its cousin, the in-person recruitment office — that uses high-pressure tactics and false promises to sign up vulnerable low-income 18 year olds, single moms, veterans, immigrants, and others struggling to get ahead, is the epicenter of this taxpayer-funded disaster.
  • The for-profit college industry continues to rent former members of Congress, blue-chip law firms, top Democratic communications advisers, and other high-priced, esteemed talent to argue against any kind of accountability for its abuses. Even with the industry's reputation badly tarnished by revelations of abuses, and with student enrollments and share prices plummeting in recent years, billions of federal dollars remain available, with too few accountability measures. So the big for-profit colleges continue to run endless misleading ads on TV, the Internet, and city buses; there are signs that student enrollments are starting to pick up again; and this industry continues to attract unscrupulous new operators anxious to cash in.
  • It's thus important for policymakers and potential students alike to see the true face of predatory colleges. It's not pretty.
  • Evidence of abuses by Corinthian continue to mount, most recently in a letter from the U.S. Department of Education imposing an unprecedented, and likely fatal, $30 million fine on the company for misdeeds at its 13-campus Heald College chain. The Department found that Heald used a variety of schemes to inflate its job placement rates, such as paying companies to hire its graduates as temps, and counting a food service job at Taco Bell as placement in the field for an accounting graduate. The Department has now halted student enrollment at Heald campuses, and California authorities have stopped enrollments at all Corinthian-owned schools in that state.

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