Who Profits from For-Profit Schools?

In May, I wrote about for-profit schools, and over the Memorial Day weekend, I found a valuable source. The PBS program “Frontline” ran a special in May called “College Inc.” On this special, they explored the for-profit education industry. The program features interviews with school personnel, students, supporters, and critics.

Widely-publicized issues with for-profit schools—that students receive degrees for which they are not prepared because, for example, they have no practical experience in the field; that students come out with enormous amounts of debt and no job prospects; that students enroll in schools that are not accredited, not realizing that their degree will not have the value they expect—are explored on the program.

The University of Phoenix, currently the largest college in the United States, is explored, as is the for-profit education business from the point of view of the investor.

The possible reshaping of how Federal financial aid to hold the for-profits to a higher measure is also explored. Nearly half of the students who defaulted on student loans within three years of graduation calls into question the value of a for-profit degree to boost a student’s earnings.

And those in charge of accreditation of universities are also looking more closely at how the accreditation process works with for-profit schools.

To view the program, which is available online, go to this special section of the PBS website. While you’re there, you may also want to look at the responses from the colleges, and check out the 1053 viewer comments.

And, because one of the most striking stories in the special is that of a student who ended up with $200,000 in student debt and unable to get the job she trained for because the school did not have the proper accreditation, you may wish to read our article on “Financial Aid Options for College.”