Here’s how students lose when Betsy DeVos backs for-profit colleges
“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed…to curtail Obama administration loan forgiveness rules for students defrauded by for-profit colleges, requiring that student borrowers show they have fallen into hopeless financial straits or prove that their colleges knowingly deceived them.”
–DeVos proposes to curtail debt relief for defrauded students, The New York Times, 7/25/18
“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans to eliminate regulations that forced for-profit colleges to prove that they provide gainful employment to the students they enroll, in what would be the most drastic in a series of moves that she has made to free the for-profit sector from safeguards put in effect during the Obama era.”
–DeVos to eliminate rules aimed at abuses by for-profit colleges, The New York Times, 7/26/18
Last week, Betsy DeVos made two announcements that—while utterly in line with her very clear vision for the future of higher education and the role that corporate interests should play in it—continue to shock anyone familiar with how student loan debt is affecting young people.
These latest developments target students on both sides of the college equation: those who are applying, and those who are graduating saddled with debt. The Obama administration’s “gainful employment” regulations were intended to dissuade students from enrolling at institutions whose graduates were unable to find jobs that would enable them to pay back their loans. During the Obama era, the government also forgave millions of dollars owed by students who were defrauded by such institutions. (DeVos’s moves would cut about $13 billion in spending that mostly goes toward forgiving this fraudulent debt.)
The U.S. Secretary of Education seems to want to implement a system where students apply to college with as little information—and graduate with as little support—as possible. For anyone lured by the heartrending TV ads and aggressive solicitation tactics employed by for-profits, this means greater vulnerability to debilitating debt.
Fortunately, as much as DeVos and the current Department of Education leaders want to obfuscate the dangers of for-profit institutions, there are ways to inform yourself and your family. If you or your kid are considering higher education options, do your research. The College Board database at BigFuture.org will help you identify for-profit schools, if you have questions. Google can also be a student-to-be’s best friend: Many for-profits have been involved in lawsuits, investigations, or controversies surrounding high loan debt and mixed outcomes for students, so make sure you go beyond the first page of search results when you’re sizing up schools. If you’re helping your kid apply for college, run names of colleges they’re considering by a guidance counselor, who may have the inside scoop on schools that scam students.
Lastly, and particularly if you or your child are considering the kind of vocational or career-training programs often advertised by for-profits, consider an associate’s degree from a community college. Not only will it be more affordable and better respected by potential employers, it’s also a great springboard to a four-year degree. And please, pretty please, don’t be like the mother who insisted that her kid go to a for-profit because community college is “beneath” their family (as reported in this Reddit thread). That’s buying right into the DeVosian mindset, in which practical, affordable education options take a backseat to the so-called “freedom” to choose from an unregulated landscape of increasingly shady schools.
Good luck out there.