New Rules are out for for-profit colleges

We’ve been highlighting some of the troubling news stories about for-profit college scams, and we’ve welcomed the notion of new rules governing the industry.

The new rules from the Obama administration are out, but they’ve been scaled back a bit from the initial proposed rules.

The Obama administration on Thursday issued a series of highly anticipated regulations aimed at cracking down on for-profit colleges and other career training programs that leave students saddled with unmanageable debts and contribute to an unequal share of federal student loan defaults.

The final rules issued by the Department of Education, however, are significantly less stringent than a draft version released last year, giving college programs an additional three years to come in line before possibly losing access to lucrative federal student aid dollars. The changes come after an unprecedented lobbying and campaign finance offensive over the past year by the for-profit college industry, which derives a vast majority of revenues from federal student loan and grant programs and has sought to protect that income by gaining influence in Washington.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the changes came after discussion with “lots and lots of different folks,” not just the industry, and he pointed out that the colleges were not unanimous in their suggestions for changes.

“What we really wanted to do was give people a chance to reform … this was not about ‘gotcha,'” Duncan said. “We tried to be very thoughtful, very reasonable and give people every opportunity to succeed, but be very clear where we wouldn’t permit ongoing failure.”

The intense lobbying campaign helped the industry, as the rules are weaker. You can check the article for the details. Lobbyist hacks like Lanny Davis did their job.

That said, this is a decent first step. It’s appropriate that the schools have a time frame to remedy problems, and this should help weed out the worst abuses.

Meanwhile, 10 states have opened a joint probe to look into the marketing practices of for-profit colleges, so we might yet see some interesting developments in this area.

The key here is you have to do your research before enrolling in one of these schools and taking on a mound of student debt.

  

Both parties shill for the for-profit college industry

Some Democrats and Republicans are trying to scuttle attempts by the Obama administration to impose new rules on for-profit colleges to prevent abuses against students to rack up huge debt for dubious degrees.

The Department of Education is tired of federally subsidized student loans going to shady for-profit colleges that have poor track records of getting the students who do graduates good work — often leaving them stuck with mountains of debt. To curb this phenomenon, the agency has been moving along with a new regulation they call the “Gainful Employment” rule.

Under “Gainful Employment” rules, for profit schools would have to show that their students can find work without getting stuck with unreasonable debt in order to qualify for federal loans.

But behind the scenes, a bipartisan bloc of House members see things differently. They say the rule would reach too far and clamp down on institutions that do a decent job of educating and preparing students. But they want to tie the Department of Education’s hands completely, and block the funds they’d need to implement the rules at all.

Fortunately, many members of Congress are with the administration on this, and Obama could veto any bill with this language.

  

Only 22 percent of students at for-profit colleges graduate

We’ve done a number of posts about for-profit college scams, so we aren’t too surprised by the terrible graduation rates reported in a new study.

For-profit colleges graduated an average of 22 percent of their students in 2008, according to a new report from Education Trust.

That average palls in comparison to bachelor’s-seeking graduation rates at public and private non-profit colleges and universities for the same year, which averaged 55 percent and 65 percent, respectively.

The report, titled “Supbrime Opportunity” (PDF) also reveals that for-profit colleges increased their enrollment by 236 percent from 1998 to 2009.

The median debt of for-profit college graduates — $31,190 — far outpaces that of private non-profit college graduates, which stands at $17,040, and is more than triple the median debt for those from public colleges, which is $7,960.

The government has helped to create this monster with easy access to student loans for these institutions, who now have the incentive to accept as many students as possible. Then they make money regardless of whether they provide value to their students.

Fortunately, the Obama administration has proposed new rules to make it more difficult for many of these for-profit colleges to waste taxpayer dollars.

  

A look at for-profit college EDMC

BusinessWeek has a recent profile on for-profit college EDMC and the involvement of Goldman Sachs. The article is balanced, as they gave EDMC the opportunity to present success stories, but many of the stories are unfortunately similar to others we’ve heard regarding for-profit colleges – too many students paying huge tuition costs, racking up huge student loans, and then not being able to get high-paying jobs they expected (or were sold on by recruiters). One student profiled in the article got a bachelor’s degree in game art and design at EDMC for a cost $70,000 in tuition and fees. After she graduating she got a job that paid $12 an hour recruiting employees for video game companies. She eventually lost that job and now she’s stripping.

We’re seeing more and more lawsuits in this area, and the article points out some lawsuits against EDMC. Changes are also coming from the Obama administration.

On July 23, the Obama Administration proposed restricting—and in extreme cases, cutting off entirely—programs whose graduates end up with the highest debts relative to their salaries and have the most trouble repaying their student loans. EDMC will be affected more than most other for-profit companies because of its focus on “passion” fields, such as art and cooking, rather than more practical accounting or business degrees, says Jeffrey M. Silber, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets in New York. Cooking, fashion, and arts jobs tend to have low starting salaries: A beginning cook, for example, earns an average of $18,000 a year, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, while a two-year culinary degree can cost $40,000 to $50,000. EDMC spokeswoman Jacquelyn P. Muller says Art Institute students tend to earn more, with those holding culinary degrees starting at $28,000.

You have to do your research if you’re thinking of attending one of these schools, and don’t fall for high-pressure sales tactics!

  

ABC News investigates for-profit colleges

ABC News has been investigating for-profit colleges like University of Phoenix, and they found plenty of evidence of problems similar to other for-profit college scams.

Ads for online schools are all over the Internet, plastered on billboards in subway cars and on television. The University of Phoenix, with nearly 500,000 students, is the biggest for-profit college. But some former students said they were duped into paying big bucks and going deeply in debt by slick and misleading recruiters.

“I don’t want anyone else to be sucked in,” said Melissa Dalmier, 30, of Noble, Ill.

The mother of three had big dreams to be an elementary school teacher, so when she saw ads for the University of Phoenix pop-up on her computer, she e-mailed them for more information. A few minutes later, Dalmier said she got a call from one of the school’s recruiters, who she said told her that enrolling in the associate’s degree in education program at the University of Phoenix would put her on the fast-track to reaching her dream.

“[The recruiter said] they had an agreement with Illinois State Board of Education and that as soon as I finished their program I’d be ready to start working,” she recalled.

Within 15 minutes, Dalmier was enrolled. Since she didn’t have enough money to pay for tuition, she said the recruiter helped her get federal student aid. In total, she took out about $8,000 in federally-guaranteed student loans.

But just a few months after Dalmier started, she said she learned the horrible truth: the degree program she was enrolled in would not qualify her to become a public school teacher upon graduation in Illinois.

“It was an outright lie. A bold faced lie,” she said.

ABC News did its own undercover investigation, and found the same despicable practices. Recruiters also push prospective students to load up on the student loans. Read the rest of the story and check out this video.

  

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