Enrollments at for-profit colleges nationwide continue to increase, with the industry now enrolling a critical mass of postsecondary students. While for-profit colleges have made some positive contributions to advancing students’ interests and meeting labor markets needs, accusations of systemic consumer fraud and abuse by these education businesses have been on the rise. Further, concerns continue to mount regarding both the unbearable financial indebtedness faced by some students attending these institutions, and the simultaneous lack of meaningful employment opportunities upon graduation.
State governments have a vital, if underappreciated, role to play in ensuring that students are not only protected from fraudulent and abusive business practices that may take place at for-profit colleges, but that they also receive an education that advances career opportunities. This policy brief illustrates the for-profit college industry’s rapid ascension in American higher education; discusses troubling patterns of impropriety and unsatisfactory student outcomes; re-examines the state’s responsibilities in this sector; and outlines national and state reform efforts.
Authored by Thomas L. Harnisch, AASCU Policy Analyst