For-profit Colleges Continue to Let Students Down

Eric Ward

In the United States, going to a college or university and achieving a level of higher education has long been viewed as one of the pillars of the American dream. Across the country, students put themselves under immense levels of pressure and even debt just for the opportunity to attend one of America’s thousands of colleges. However, even some of the country’s brightest young students, time and time again, fall victim to the scam of for-profit universities.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are nearly 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, public and private. Among them are 697 for-profit institutions. 

While these for-profit colleges tout themselves to prospective students as a more flexible and less-selective option for higher learning, data has shown that these schools are a bad investment for applicants. A 2020 report by the centrist think tank Third Way found that while 86% of state colleges and universities give their graduates enough of an income boost to break even on their tuition costs within five years, only 24% of for-profit colleges can say the same. In the long term, a majority (51%) of graduates of for-profit colleges will never earn back the cost of their education. 

Additionally, as these institutions are run more similarly to businesses than actual schools, their main focus is turning a profit, rather than providing an education for their students. A 2019 report by The Century Foundation found that for-profit colleges typically spend less than half of their revenue from tuition on teaching students. Meanwhile, many non-profit schools actually spend more on teaching than they take in from tuition. Part of the reason for this gap is that for-profit schools spend the bulk of their money on advertising. With online ads, commercials, and thousands of paid recruiters, these schools spend tens of millions of dollars to deceive students that they will receive a useful and fulfilling education. 

As many students at Latin and across the country consider their options for education after high school, it is important to stay informed about what may be truly motivating the efforts of institutions such as these.

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