Recessions such as the current one have always encouraged people to think about education, whether traditional or trade, and that always bring out the sharks—especially when federal money is involved.
“At institutions that train students for careers in areas like health care, computers and food service,… tuition that can exceed $30,000 a year.”
They borrow to pay it because they are sold the idea that there is a job at the end of the tunnel; too often the jobs don’t materialize, but the debt is all too real.
Even worse are the promises made by for-profit colleges to the tens of thousands of young Americans who serve in our armed forces.
The five largest provide classes online and charge $250 a credit (as opposed to $50 a credit at local colleges on bases), which allows them to receive the maximum reimbursed by U.S. taxpayers…
Taxpayers picked up $474 million for college tuition for 400,000 active-duty personnel in the year ended Sept. 30, 2008, more than triple the spending a decade earlier… degrees from any accredited college provide a boost toward military promotion, credentials from online, for-profit schools can be less helpful in getting civilian jobs, especially in a tight labor market.
But this is America, land of opportunity and if they are anything the for-profit colleges are focused on opportunity.
With Congress and the Defense Dept. making noises the colleges followed a tried and true path of other for profit companies—when you can’t do it in-house acquire it from outside. So they are buying smaller, weaker colleges and, presto, instant accreditation.
ITT Educational Services didn’t pay $20.8 million for debt-ridden Daniel Webster College in June just to acquire its red-brick campus, 1,200 students, or computer science and aviation training programs. …the Nashua (N.H.) college’s “most attractive” feature was its regional accreditation… Regional accreditation, the same gold standard of academic quality enjoyed by Harvard, is a way to increase enrollment and tap into the more than $100 billion the federal government pays out annually in financial aid.
Make no mistake, this is our problem, yours and mine, and it doesn’t matter what your politics are.
These are the people who will form the bedrock of the US workforce in the coming decades; who are struggling to improve their lives or who have given up years building their own career and spent those years protecting yours.
They deserve better than an apathetic public or lobbied Congress that turn a blind eye or timid efforts as education funds are plundered so a few can gain wealth on the backs of America’s talent.
Next week we’ll take a look at another source of lost talent. Please join me.
Image credit: Alan Cordova on flickr