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Many For-Profit College Companies Deliver Broken Promises and Failed Dreams

If you watch daytime or late-night TV, you’ve seen the slick, 30-second commercials that promise down-on-their-luck viewers a fairy godmother-like solution – a quick, affordable, college-level education that provides hands-on experience and positions students to land their dream job. If you want proof of the quality of these career education programs, the commercials continue, look no further than the myriad of success stories of their graduates.

Yesterday’s Boston Globe article, “For-profit colleges get harsh grades by former students: Graduates complain of onerous debt, unmet promises about careers,” paints a more realistic story of what actually happens to former students of these schools, such as:

  • Will Puntarich, who left New England Institute of Art with more than $180,000 in debt and a degree deemed a “joke” by potential employers. His life became so rough that he had to move back in with his parents. His school, part of the for-profit chain Education Management Corp., is under investigation by Massachusetts and 10 other states for its questionable practices;
  • Michael Di Giacomo, who had dreams of working in the video gaming industry. He also left New England Institute of Art with $100,000 in debt and still cannot to find a job related to his degree; and 
  • Marie DelTufo, who enrolled in the Career Education Institute in Brockton to land a job as a medical coding specialist only to learn, weeks before completing the program, that her certification would only allow her to be a medical administrative assistant. She left school with $26,000 in debt. Her school is also under investigation.

Don’t assume that this bad behavior is limited to just a few career education companies. The behemoth for-profit Corinthian Colleges, Inc., was sued last month by federal regulators for predatory lending. The Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Department of Justice are investigating Corinthian Colleges after allegations of manipulating student attendance records, completion rates, and student loan default rates, among other things. The U.S. Department of Education also tightened financial oversight of the college earlier this year for failing to address concerns about its practices, including falsifying job placement data used in marketing claims to prospective students. Corinthian Colleges has since announced that it is in the process of shutting down or selling 97 of its campuses, leaving the fate of the 72,000 students enrolled in question.

Unfortunately for the vast majority of students enrolled there and in other programs with predatory practices, students won’t be offered relief from their loan debt. That means that many of these students will be just like those described in the Boston Globe article — stuck with a worthless degree, if any degree at all, and a load of debt. Student victims lured into enrolling at bad-acting colleges will continue to suffer. 

There is still a chance for policymakers to protect students from predatory career education programs.  The U.S. Department of Education is expected to release a final “gainful employment” rule (that governs for-profit colleges) by Nov 1. This is our chance to tell the U.S. Department of Education what we need in a final rule and why — to make sure that more students don’t fall victim to the trickeries of for-profit colleges.

You can take action here, by sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Education, telling them why students need a strong gainful employment rule.