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Beware For-Profit Colleges

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, releases a Senate Democratic report asserting that for-profit schools often hit vulnerable students with exorbitant tuition, aggressive recruiting practices, and abysmal student outcomes, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 30, 2012. Harkin is joined by by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., center, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

CREDIT: AP/J. Scott Applewhite.

  • Read the PDF.

Investigations by the federal government, media, and state Attorneys General have revealed numerous instances of deceptive for-profit colleges, particularly those run by large, publicly-traded companies. Under the leadership of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee conducted a thorough investigation of the for-profit sector of higher education from June 2010 to July 2012. For-profit colleges have become a contentious issue as they engage in manipulative tactics to enroll as many students as possible in order to maximize profits.

As enrollment has increased, the quality of education has not kept pace. Prices are too high, program quality is substandard, many students are admitted without regard for their potential for success or ability to afford tuition and repay loans, and post-graduation placement efforts are inadequate.  Augmenting the problem, most Americans are unfamiliar with the for-profit college model. According to a study released by Public Agenda, 65 percent of current students and 63 percent of alumni at for-profit colleges are not familiar with the term “for-profit college” which can make it even more challenging for advocates working to educate the public about these substandard programs and practices.

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