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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: For-profit degrees worth nothing, exploitative

The University of Phoenix was just put on probation by the Department of Defense. The DOD announced a little over a week ago that, after revelations of under-the-table recruitment and marketing techniques, that the school would no longer be allowed to recruit at military facilities.

The change happened fairly quietly, based on a report from the Pentagon that detailed aggressive recruiting, higher rates of loan default, less help with job placement post-graduation, and low retention rates. These characteristics are not unique to the University of Phoenix, but essentially every for-profit school in the U.S.

Really, though, the question should probably be whether it’s even fair to call the University of Phoenix—and other for-profit colleges like it—a “school.”

With the 2008 recession, public and private universities alike were forced to tighten their belts. Students who were trying to make themselves more marketable by gaining a college degree were forced to turn to for-profit universities, which welcomed them with open arms.

The primary reason that the colleges accepted students so easily is that they don’t really bear the cost of educating that student—the federal government does.

In the 2000-2001 academic year, for-profit colleges received $1.1 billion in federal Pell grants. By the 2009-2010 academic year, these same colleges were receiving $7.5 billion. Their federal aid had actually surpassed that of private colleges, though not public.

A whopping 96 percent of students at these institutions are forced to take out student loans—perhaps because the average cost of a two-year associates degree at a for-profit college is more than four times the cost of a comparable degree at a comparable community college. The cost of a four-year bachelor’s degree at a for-profit college is more than $10 thousand greater than that same degree at a state flagship university.

It comes as little surprise, then, that these students graduate with over $32 thousand in median debt—debt that they are very likely to default on, in particular as data from the Department of Education suggests that in many cases, a diploma from a for-profit college will net a lower salary than a high school dropout.

If employers are recognizing that degrees from these schools are essentially worthless, why isn’t the federal government?

The takeaway from these numbers should essentially be that students are being conned. The federal government is pouring millions into loans for them that will more than likely be defaulted on. The profit from students certainly isn’t going into education, but rather into salaries for CEOs and recruiters, and ultimately serves to bring in even more gullible and vulnerable students.

So, frankly, it’s about time that the DOD got it together and put the University of Phoenix on probation. It might even be too late. And while some Democrats, particularly in the Senate, have recognized the problem and begun persecuting the schools, as well as pushing for debt forgiveness for their graduates who can’t find a job, Congress is strangely stagnant on acting on such a blatant money drain.

At the very least, as they wait to close bureaucratic loopholes that allow the schools to continue receiving funding, they can shut down the false recruiting tactics and work to educate would-be students about the true meaning of the debt they will be taking on, as well as
the unlikelihood that it will even result in a job.

In a time where higher education as a whole is struggling, it’s absurd that this funding should be going to “colleges” that are definitively not providing a return on their investment. That funding should be going somewhere else. In the meantime, though, moves like the DOD’s are key and should be encouraged.


Follow Maddie Pickens on Twitter.


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