Showing posts with label Senator Tom Harkins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Senator Tom Harkins. Show all posts

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Not With a Bang But With a Whimper: For-Profit Corinthian Colleges May Close Some Campuses

Yesterday's New York Times carried a story in its Business Section about Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit company that operates under the names of Heald, Everest and WyoTech.  Corinthian has 72,000 students on more than 100 campuses.

Recently, Corinthian announced that it did have enough operating cash to stay in business after the end of this month, and it persuaded the federal government to release some federal student aid money in spite of the fact that it admitted fraud in the reporting of student grades and job placements.  Corinthian has also been sued by the California Attorney General based on allegations that it used high-pressure tactics to recruit vulnerable students--including single mothers.

Like most for-profit colleges, Corinthian relies on the federal student aid program to stay in business. It gets about 90 percent of its revenue from the federal government--about $1.4 billion a year.  DOE's emergency cash infusion (about $16 million, according to the New York Times) may be enough to stave off closing for awhile at least. But that might not be a good thing for students.

As the Times article stated:
If, as critics contend, many Corinthian students are going deeper into debt to gain useless educations, some of those students might have been better off is the Education Department had stuck to its guns and forced Corinthian to close. Federal student loan rules do not require students to repay loans that were canceled while they were enrolled, leaving them unable to graduate.
In most instances, we should not be happy to see a college close, but the for-profit industry is a special case. As Senator Tom Harkin's Committee outlined in its report on for-profit colleges, this sector of higher education only educates about 11 percent of postsecondary students but collects about 25 percent of federal student aid money.  The for-profits have the highest student-loan default rate in the higher education industry; according to DOE, one in five for-profit college students default within three years of beginning repayment. 

And there is ample evidence that for-profit colleges have exploited low-income individuals, encouraging them to take out loans to pay for programs that don't lead to well-paying jobs.  Even if they believe they have been defrauded, these students often have no recourse to the courts, because many of the for-profits require students to sign agreements to arbitrate disputes rather than sue.

Indeed, the Ninth Circuit ruled last year that Corinthian students were compelled to arbitrate their misrepresentation claims against Corinthian--claims that were brought under California's unfair competition law, false advertising law, and California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act. 

To its credit, the Obama administration has been trying to impose regulations on the for-profits, but it suffered a setback in the courts when the for-profits were successful in getting some of the Department of Education's regulations thrown out.  Recently, DOE issued a second set of proposed regulations, but these new regulations will probably just lead to more litigation.

So we should not be sorry to see Corinthian Colleges close--if that event comes to pass. In fact, we should hope this whole unseemly industry collapses.  So far,  the federal government has not been successful in effectively regulating the for-profit college industry.  But perhaps students will gradually wake up to the fact that they would probably be better off enrolling in low-cost community colleges, where they might not need to take out student loans, than to matriculate at high-cost for-profit institutions that have a very poor track record regarding job placement, degree completion, and student-loan defaults.


Ferguson v. Corinthian Colleges, 733 F.3d 928 (9th Cir. 2013).

Floyd Norris. A For-Profit College Falters as Federal Cash Wanes. New York Times, June 27, 2014.

U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success. 112 Congress, 2d Session, July 30, 2012.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How high Is the student loan default rate? Buddy, you don't really want to know.

 How many people have kissed my girlfriend, Eddy Arnold asked in one of his greatest hit songs. "How many, how many, I wonder. But I really don't want to know."

No, Eddy decides he would rather remain ignorant. In fact he instructs his girlfriend not to tell him about her former lovers, even if he asks.  "So always make me wonder," Eddy Arnold crooned. "Always make me guess. And even if I ask you, darling please don't confess."

Eddy Arnold
"I really don't want to know."
That's kind of the way the Department of Education feels about the federal student loan program.  Every autumn, DOE reports on the federal student-loan default rate.  But DOE's measure vastly understates the true default rate.  Like Eddy Arnold, DOE really doesn't want to know the truth. Or maybe DOE knows the truth and doesn't want us to know.

Nevertheless, let's look at DOE's latest report on student-loan default rates. According to DOE, 14.7 percent of students who began repayment in the 2010 fiscal year defaulted within three years. As usual, the default rate is highest in the for-profit college sector.  About one in five people who attended for-profit colleges  (21.8 percent) defaulted within three years of beginning repayment.

I've said this many times, but it bears repeating: The true student-loan default rate--the percentage of students who default over the lifetime of their entire loan-repayment period--is probably double the rate that DOE announced this week. In other words, the true default rate for all student borrowers is about 30 percent and the rate for people who took out loans to attend for-profit colleges is at least 40 percent.

As Senator Tom Hawkins' Senate Committee Report on for-profit colleges spelled out, the for-profit colleges are very sophisticated when it comes to managing their institutional default rates. They encourage former students who are in danger of defaulting during the first three years of repayment to apply for economic hardship deferments. Borrowers who get deferments are not counted as defaulters even though they are not making their loan payments. And these deferments are very easy to get.

How many people have obtained some kind of deferment or forbearance on their student loans? Almost nine million people, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That's nine million people who are not making loan payments but who aren't counted as defaulters.

Of course some people who get economic hardship deferments will eventually make their loan payments, but a lot of them will not. And those people are not included in DOE's default rate.

When we look at all the evidence, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the federal student-loan program has wrecked the lives of about 30 percent of the program's participants. Isn't it time we confront this stark reality?

But DOE, Congress, and the higher education community don't want to face the truth.  And so DOE continues to post its misleading student-loan default rates and the total amount of student-loan indebtedness continues to rise.  


Nick DeSantis. Default rate on federal student loans climbs again. Chronicle of Higher Education, September 30, 2013. Accessible at: