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If you have read recently that the U.S. Department of Education cracked down on predatory for-profit colleges, don’t believe it.
Read this story in today’s New York Times.
When the Obama administration agreed to erase the federal loan debt of some former students at Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit school that filed for bankruptcy in the face of charges of widespread fraud, education officials promised to “protect students from abusive colleges and safeguard the interests of taxpayers.”
But the Education Department, despite a crackdown against what it calls “bad actors,” continues to hand over tens of millions of dollars every month to other for-profit schools that have been accused of predatory behavior, substandard practices or illegal activity by its own officials or state attorneys general across the country.
Consider the Education Management Corporation, which runs 110 schools in the United States for chefs, artists and other trades. It has been investigated or sued in recent years by prosecutors in at least 12 states. The Justice Department has accused the company of illegally using incentives to pay its recruiters. And last year, investors filed a class-action lawsuit, contending that the company engaged in deceptive enrollment practices and manipulated federal student loan and grant programs.
Education Management nonetheless received more than $1.25 billion in federal money over the last school year.
The career training and for-profit college industry has been accused in recent years of preying on the poor, veterans and minorities by charging exorbitant fees for degrees that mostly fail to deliver promised skills and jobs.
Despite stepped-up scrutiny, hundreds of schools that have failed regulatory standards or been accused of violating legal statutes are still hauling in billions of dollars of government funds. They include tiny beauty schools with staggering loan default rates and online law schools with dismal graduation records and no bar association accreditation. Without government funds, which account for the overwhelming bulk of revenue, few of these institutions could attract students or stay in business.
The for-profit higher education industry hired the best lobbyists from both parties, and this is the result. Government-funded fraud against students goes on. Business as usual.