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Would you go to Strayer University?

By on March 23, 2021 0

For-profit higher education comes under scrutiny, but the harms of institutions can overshadow the needs of students. The Senate Health Education Work and Pensions Committee launched a series of hearings on June 24 that will investigate the for-profit higher education sector. The first hearing focused on protecting taxpayers’ investment in federal financial aid by eliminating “bad actors” – colleges that use deceptive recruiting tactics to pressure students into being. present or fraudulently tinkering with enrollment numbers in search of income from Pell Scholarships for Students.

While it is important to tackle these abuses, fraud reports can mask the larger problem at hand. President Barack Obama has made graduation a national priority. And with a lingering jobs crisis, we need to ensure that students get the education and skills that will lead to gainful employment and a stronger workforce. Institutional regulation can play a role in achieving this goal, but achieving this will require helping students choose institutions where they are sufficiently engaged to persevere to graduation. Even after weeding out bad actor programs, students must choose from institutions that vary widely in the quality, price, and market value of their degrees, with little information to guide their decisions.

The success of “bad actor” colleges in attracting students is a symptom of this problem. Student Yasmine Issa testified before the committee about her experiences at the for-profit Sanford Brown Institute. She was looking for a head start in the job market, but had little information about the quality of the program and available alternatives, and therefore remained dissatisfied, unemployed and struggling with loans.

Many students like Yasmine choose these institutions even though they are much more expensive than community colleges that offer comparable programs, probably because the for-profit institutions advertise every opportunity on television, on the Internet and even in the Internet. public transport. They position their message where potential students are most likely to find it. It is not obvious that the programs may not be certified by state licensing agencies or that the payoff is not worth the hefty price tag, as the richest sources of information and the most readily available on colleges are their own marketing materials.

It is not the educational model of for-profit colleges that is the problem; in fact, their flexible, career-oriented programs may be just what students need. The problem is that the choice to attend these institutions is not enlightened. The appeal is flashy, accessible and easy to understand, while the hard facts about program quality are scarce, complicated and often hidden from the public.

Senate Health Education Work and Pensions Committee chair Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) said students flooded his office with marketing prey stories from an institution for purpose lucrative, only to find that the degrees they had earned were not worth their time or money. . Closing ‘bad actor’ colleges would prevent students from attending any of these schools, but it would still leave them to choose from a variety of other institutions without any reliable information on the likely outcome of their next investment. what the school itself provides.

As the committee continues its investigation of the for-profit sector, its members should remember that the federal financial aid system invests in students, not colleges. Students postpone taxpayer investment in institutions of their choice. It is important to regulate for-profit colleges and to ensure that institutions offer quality programs, but these measures are not enough to protect this investment.

Students also need policies that help them make the choices that lead from entering college to graduation, including better and more readily available information on program quality, career outcomes, and risks associated with indebtedness. And students need more transparency around college education services so they can become savvy consumers.

Once Senators deal with these important – but easier to fix – issues of fraud and abuse, they should focus on the deeper question of how the for-profit college industry can be part of a system. post-secondary education that is built around the needs of a large and diverse body of students seeking a post-secondary degree.

Julie Morgan is a political analyst at American Progress.

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