Gainful Employment and For-Profit Colleges

The effectiveness and approach of for-profit colleges is being questioned, explains author David A. Bergeron.

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idea light bulbEarning a college degree or other postsecondary credential is critical to achieving economic mobility. Career-focused education programs, often run by for-profit colleges, are eligible to participate in federal student-aid programs with the expectation that they will help students achieve meaningful employment after graduation. Unfortunately, some for-profit colleges have taken advantage of students by promising postgraduation employment but instead leaving them worse off, saddled with debt and no job prospects.

Consider a recent story in The Boston Globe: A student comes to Boston to get a college degree and graduates from a for-profit college owing more than $180,000 in student loans with little hope of being able to repay them. Or this example: A former service member who spent seven years in the military nearly exhausted his G.I. Bill benefits and took out an additional $40,000 in student loans to attend a for-profit college. Later, he learned that the school’s recruiter deceived him, and the degree he earned was worthless for the career in law enforcement that he wanted to pursue. Or this: A veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder enrolled in an online photography program from a for-profit art institute. But he failed to complete his degree because the institution did not provide the kind of supports he needed to leverage his veterans benefits along the way.

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