Tuesday, April 16, 2019

More than a thousand college campuses closed over the past five years: The for-profit scourge

Earlier this month, Chronicle of Higher Education reported that 1,200 college campuses have closed over the last five years, displacing nearly half a million students. As Chronicle reporters Michael Vasquez and Dan Bauman explained, most of these campuses were operated by for-profit colleges, which often have campuses in multiple locations.

For example,Vatterot College, Education Corporation of America, and Dream Center Education Holdings closed their doors during the last six months, and together these colleges operated 126 campuses.

As the Chronicle article pointed out, college closures can be traumatic events for students, who are forced to interrupt their studies and search for replacement colleges. Low-income and minority students are disproportionately affected. Seventy percent of the students who attended the closed institutions received Pell Grant aid, and 57 percent are black or Hispanic.

Betsy DeVos's Department of Education is doing everything it can to prop up the venal for-profit college industry, and yet this sleazy sector continues to be under stress. The for-profits are facing increased competition from public universities, which are rolling out their own online degree programs and encroaching on the for-profit colleges' target population. Arizona State University and Purdue University, both public institutions, now have big online footprints.

In addition, more and more Americans have figured out that a degree from a for-profit college almost always costs more than a comparable degree from a public institution and rarely leads to a good job. No wonder the student-loan default rate among for-profit-college students is so high. More than half of the students who borrow money to attend a for-profit college default within 12 years after beginning repayment--four times the default rate of students who attended community colleges.

It is regrettable that so many for-profit college students are having their lives disrupted by the closure of their institutions, but these shutdowns are a blessing in disguise.  Some students will transfer to low-cost community colleges, which will allow them to take out smaller student loans or avoid student loans altogether.  Those that transfer to public institutions are likely to  have more rewarding educational experiences than they were getting at these dodgy for-profit outfits.

In short, it may seem shocking that so many for-profit colleges are closing, but it is undoubtedly a good thing. In spite of everything that Trump's Department of Education has done to aid the for-profit college racket, this industry is in trouble. The for-profit colleges are a blight on American higher education. Let us look forward to the day when they are extinct.


  1. As always I appreciate your caring and incisive articles.

    Why do you think that so many for profit colleges are closing? Loans have not dried up, even if they should.

    I would close them all tomorrow morning by denying them federal loans..... but first we need to provide loan refunds and transfer of credits for the students who otherwise suffer.

    1. Hi, Bob. Thanks for writing. I agree wholeheartedly that a student who attended for-profit colleges should get a speedy loan refund if the college closes. DOE regulations provide for refunds, but the process is not speedy. I agree also that students should be able to transfer their credits to other colleges, but public universities do not always accept credits from for-profit institutions.

    2. What about community colleges, state colleges, and universities/ I have a doctorate and wish I paid the money to go to a for-profit institution. At least I'd have a skill and a higher paying job then graduates in undergraduate programs. For-profit accreditors held their feet to the fire for placement, graduation,etc. I worked for a community college that owed millions to the feds and they received 10 years accreditation with no condition by SASCOC. I thought what a joke, because for-profits would have been stripped of accreditation. This is something that exists and continues to occur, but there's no one to blame anymore... Most of the graduates in Jacksonville FL work in fast food and retail jobs. So which schools are the better? Try getting a job with a bachelors degree in English, history, psychology, etc. What about those students loans and no opportunity for a reasonable paying job? How about the Ph.D. students who research crap that doesn't impact society, because dissertations are written to get degrees? The outcome of tradition schools isn't much better than the for-profit sector! Well I think the feds are getting ready to learn that finger pointing is a waste of time. Funny thing is, more traditional schools have closed the past 20 years. So...

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