HUFFINGTON POST: ‘Chipping Away At My Soul’

Career College Central Summary:

  • Dawn Lueck’s bosses were beaming. It was the height of the Great Recession, and hundreds of thousands of Americans were losing their jobs each month. But executives at her company, a network of for-profit universities branded as Heald Colleges, were ebullient.
  • “We knew we’d have more students coming in,” said Lueck, a former corporate finance manager for 12 Heald campuses. “They were thrilled.”
  • Heald, which was founded in 1863, counts governors, senators and A.P. Giannini, the co-founder of Bank of America, among its alumni. But in 2009, it became part of Corinthian Colleges Inc., a vast conglomerate that, at its height, served over 110,000 students at 120 campuses throughout North America.
  • The fortunes of for-profit colleges tracked the Great Recession in reverse: Corinthian’s stock price more than doubled between March 2008 and February 2009, just as unemployment spiked; enrollment increased more than 50 percent between fall 2008 and fall 2010. Widespread layoffs left people scrambling to acquire additional skills to compete in an impossible job market. And Corinthian recruiters sold prospective students on a dream: graduating college and ascending into the middle class, with career training that would pay off.
  • In lawsuits, official complaints to state and federal regulators, sworn declarations submitted in Corinthian’s bankruptcy proceeding, and conversations with The Huffington Post, dozens of former Corinthian students and several former Corinthian employees said that Corinthian drowned students in debt and sent them off with meaningless diplomas that did not help — and sometimes even harmed — their job prospects. It illegally padded job placement statistics and gave students college credit for “externships” at fast-food restaurants. It charged students up to 10 times what a comparable community college degree would cost. More than 1 in 4 Corinthian graduates defaulted on their student loans, according to Education Department data. And for years, the Education Department not only failed to recognize the depths of the abuse, but effectively funded Corinthian’s business model, sending the company billions of dollars in financial aid to help cover students’ bills.
  • Corinthian’s top executives have denied wrongdoing. “Colleges like ours fill an important role in the broader education system and address a critical need that remains largely unmet by community colleges and other public sector schools,“ said Corinthian CEO Jack Massimino in a statement on the company’s website. ”Overall, our schools did a good job for the students they served.”

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