NYT: The Troubling Appeal of Education at For-Profit Schools

The NYT has a piece on “The Troubling Appeal of Education at For-Profit Schools”.

Some two million Americans are enrolled in for-profit colleges, up from 400,000 in 2000. Those students, most of them working adults getting short-term certificates, are disproportionately nonwhite and female. They graduate with more debt than students who have attended public and nonprofit institutions, and are more likely to default on their loans. It is taxpayers who are financing the expensive and often academically inferior education that for-profit colleges provide. Ninety-four percent of for-profit students pay tuition with federal student loans.

Disproportionately non-white and female? Uh-oh! That means it’s a problem that we are morally obliged to respond to!

In the revelatory “Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy,” the sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom introduces us to London, a 48-year-old widow and single mother of three children. London lives in rural North Carolina, and has watched as decent working-class jobs in the textile industry disappeared from her region. She hopes to land an office job with benefits, and knows she needs additional training. But she fears she would be turned away from the oversubscribed local community college because of her lack of academic preparation.

So London has gone deep into debt enrolling in five for-profit college programs, only one of which she has completed. At various times she trained to be a child care provider, a medical biller, a computer technician and, most recently, a medical assistant. Cottom asked London what she would do if she could not find the middle-class health care administration job she desired — a type of position that often requires training in a medical specialty like cardiology. London’s program at a branch of for-profit Everest College does not provide such specialized training. She smiled and told Cottom, “Jesus is my backup plan.”

Presumably, London is black. (What other race of non-whites would name their daughter “London”?) She has made some foolish financial decisions, so it’s society’s obligation to help her out.

Now, I’m no defender of for-profit colleges per se, whether its Trump University or the thousands of other ones. But why are the poor decisions of individuals all it takes to justify government regulation?

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