The problem with for-profit education

Being a project that is centered around the intersection of technology and the liberal arts, naturally we have an interest with seeing new online tools emerge for education. We think their is a role — perhaps a very strong one — for online education. Jeremy is not only teaching his students about the Web and how it can further journalism, he is also using online tools to teach them.

But we support education, not the monstrosities that most for-profit educational systems have become:

Management handed down revamped telemarketing scripts designed to prey on poor and uneducated consumers, honing in on their past mistakes in life as a ploy to convince them that college would solve all their problems, according to conversations with more than a dozen current and former Education Management Corp. employees over the past two months.

“You’d probe to find a weakness,” said Brian Klein, a former admissions employee who worked for three years at Argosy University Online, one of four major colleges operated by EDMC. “You basically take all that failure and all those bad decisions, and you spin it around and put it right back in their face as guilt, to go to this shitty university and run up all of this debt.”

Just as the subprime mortgage bubble was giving way to a bust that would help trigger a devastating financial crisis, Goldman Sachs, a firm that had been at the center of Wall Street’s rampant mortgage speculation, found its way to a new area of explosive growth: In claiming what would eventually become a 41 percent stake in Education Management Corp., Goldman secured itself a means of tapping into the boom in for-profit higher education. The federal government was boosting aid to college students nationwide, just as a declining economy prompted millions of Americans to seek refuge in higher education, leading to dramatically expanding enrollments at many institutions.

This piece is a fascinating read, and shows The Huffington Post at its finest, doing real, important journalism. Journalism that many organizations have forgotten.

Hopefully the pitfalls of for-profit education won’t turn people away from good online tools that enhance learning.


Does for-profit education work?

I found this to be particularly thought provoking:

The Senate committee found an average dropout rate of 57 percent within two years of enrollment at 16 unnamed for-profit schools. More than 95 percent of students at two-year proprietary schools, and 93 percent at four-year schools, took out student loans in 2007, the committee found. That compares to fewer than 17 percent of community college students and 44.3 percent of students at four-year public schools. Students at for-profit schools also account for nearly half of all student loan defaults, the committee found.

“Some for-profit schools are efficient government subsidy collectors first and educational institutions second,” the committee concluded in its report.