THE BLOG
09/09/2014 05:30 pm ET Updated Nov 09, 2014

For Profit Colleges: Maintaining a Permanent Underclass

For profit colleges are educational institutions that you see advertised on television, often late at night: University of Phoenix, DeVry, Corinthian College, and ITT Tech. The advertisements that for profit colleges create make attending college seem so easy; why you can even attend class online while at home in your pajamas! However, these advertisements do not mention the sinister side of attending a for profit college. For instance, while for profit colleges only serve 13 percent of the total higher education population in the U.S., they receive 31 percent of all federal student loans. According to the Department of Education, nearly half of students who default on their loans attended a for profit college. Not surprisingly, most of the students attending for profit colleges are low-income students, whose household income is at or below the federal poverty line, and former veterans utilizing their GI Bills . These startling statistics point to a clear, profit driven assault on America's working class. Thus, I argue that for profit colleges have been helping to maintain a permanent underclass. Much like car title loan companies and paycheck lending companies, for profit colleges prey on poor and minority students, saddle them with debt, and leave them with only debt, as their degree is often worthless in the job market.

Like my prior pieces regarding the creation of a permanent under class through the No Child Left Behind Act and the move towards privatizing juvenile detention facilities, I argue that for profit colleges maintain the permanent underclass. For profit colleges maintain this permanent underclass by targeting veterans and low income students to attend their non accredited programs, and encouraging them to borrow federally insured loans. Once many of these students finish, they have difficulty finding jobs, as their degree is not regionally accredited. Since these colleges are not regionally accredited, the credits you earn from them are non-transferable to non profit universities. In addition, most students do not actually graduate. Ultimately, for profit universities benefit from our tax dollars, and therefore, I argue that it is imperative for the government to regulate these 'businesses'.

The Obama administration has been attempting to regulate for profit colleges for the past five years and has finally taken dramatic measures to reverse the for profit trend. Last month, Corinthian Colleges was forced to shut down 85 campuses. While only Corinthian Colleges have closed thus far, this is a dramatic move forward in regulating an industry that clearly preys on minority, veteran and lower income students. The Department of Education asked Corinthian, which also owns Everest College and Heald, to produce documentation of student outcomes and job placement by January 1st of this year. However, by June, Corinthian had still not produced anything to verify that students actually receive jobs after completing their degrees. The government froze federal funding to Corinthian, which comprised 93% of the company's earnings in 2013. The company was forced to bargain with the Department of Education once its main source of income was cut off and shut down the majority of its schools. In the past week, the University of Phoenix announced that it will also be undergoing federal review, similar to the one Corinthian failed recently. Obama has made an important regulatory step forward in combating the problems with for profit colleges by freezing their federal funding, but more regulations need to be put in place.

However, for profit colleges point to deeper issues within our society. First, education should not be run as a for profit business, and especially with no federal oversight or regulation. Clearly, for profit colleges do not regulate themselves and are utilizing valuable federal student loan money to provide a scam education to vulnerable populations in society. As public education is continually dismantled in this country on the primary, secondary and post secondary level, are we surprised that a certain segment of the population remains trapped in a cycle of poverty? I believe that the creation of a permanent underclass is not an accident; in fact, I would argue that private prisons, charter schools, voucher programs, and for profit colleges all aim to create an underclass that is profitable to corporations. The creation of the underclass begins early. Poor minority students utilizing vouchers or charter schools to attend primary and secondary schools are taking away important tax revenue from their local public schools and putting it in the hands of people making a profit. Not to mention, poor students who do not have the privilege of using vouchers or attending charter schools often end up becoming part of the school to prison pipeline, as they attend failing high schools that are highly securitized and policed. After attending lackluster secondary schools, many poor and vulnerable students are left with few options and attend a for profit college, further indebting themselves without the benefit of graduating with an accredited degree.

While poor and vulnerable students all over the country are losing educationally at every turn, for profit educational and incarceration corporations are making record profits. To top it all off, these profits are coming from federal money, which means that we all, as taxpayers, are the source of these corrupt companies' profits. Let's encourage President Obama and Congress to close for profit colleges, or to place strict regulations on any for profit universities that are receiving federal student loans.