Student voices are rarely heard in the debate over for-profit education. As representatives for borrowers, we do our best to pass on their experiences, but we are generally drowned out by the industry-driven noise and distractions.
One of the most common questions we get is why our clients sign up for these schools even when they have heard about problems or recognize that the sales pitch is too good to be true. The psychology behind these choices is complex and it is not possible in any case to make general conclusions about the decision making of a diverse population. We do, however, find a number of common themes expressed by our clients. For example, they often tell us that they signed up because it seemed like no other schools wanted them and the for-profit school recruiter made them feel good about themselves. A recent post from the Black Man in the Cosmos blog elaborates on this theme. The author, Lavelle Porter, writes that “It is important to see that for-profit colleges are not just about finding ways to make colleges profitable, and not just about applying market rationality to higher education by arguing that the bottom line benefits all. No, for-profit colleges have been as successful as they have been so far because they have found ways to tap into the hopes and dreams of people struggling to give themselves a better life.” Ultimately, he writes, “The for-profit college phenomenon is simply the latest chapter in a long history of Wall Street exploiting and undermining the American working class while selling them a false sense of empowerment.”
We will continue to write about our clients’ experiences on this blog. We have also testified in numerous forums and written comments about the severe consequences for borrowers who end up with nothing but debt after attending inferior schools. Senator Harkin and the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing yesterday, focusing on the incredible growth of one company, Bridgepoint Education, despite the lack of quality outcomes for students. In January 2011, we issued a report about problems with for-profit school institutional loans and the consequences for students.