Education as Predation

During my years teaching in an inner-city high school, I witnessed first-hand the marketing of hope to desperate students by the for-profit colleges and other commercial post-secondary institutions. The “admissions officers” (more properly described as sales reps) regaled the students with visions of successful careers in high-paying fields, acknowledging no potential impediments—either academic or economic. They ignored the schools’ dismal graduation rates. Their discussions of student loans focused on the ease of qualifying, not the enormous debt burdens their students racked up.

I was encouraged when the Obama administration announced regulations designed to correct such predatory abuses. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the current administration’s plan is to delay, dilute and dismantle these regulations. Here’s the story as reported by NPR.

“Two weeks ago, we reported that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was rolling back the ‘gainful employment’ rule intended to rein in for-profit colleges. On Friday, she took a further step back.

“On July 1, colleges were supposed to begin disclosing information about program performance to students in their marketing materials. The schools now have an extra year to comply.

“‘Once fully implemented, the current rules would unfairly and arbitrarily limit students’ ability to pursue certain types of higher education and career training programs,’ DeVos said in a statement.

“As we reported on the details of the rule:

“‘Colleges and universities were to be evaluated based on how many graduates are able to pay back their loans. The logic being, if too many students end up with low incomes and high debt, the program is not offering good value for money. Programs that consistently failed the test were supposed to lose access to federal student-aid dollars.’

“The New York Times noted recently that evidence suggests the gainful employment rule had been working as advertised, in that colleges are voluntarily shutting down the programs that provide the worst return on investment.”

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