Column, 308 words

For-Profit Colleges Are Scandal Machines

This corrupt higher education "industry" ought to be put out of business.

Jim Hightower

The nation’s for-profit, private college industry is a study in horror.

Start with the fact that it actually calls itself an “industry.” Excuse me, but education is a social investment — not an industrial product.

Next, this so-called “private” industry depends almost wholly on government money. It generates practically none of its revenue from the free market. Instead, it cons students into taking expensive government-backed loans to invest in educations that seldom deliver increases in their earning potential.

“For-profit” colleges are just that. They maintain that their obligation isn’t to serve students or society, but to deliver profits to their corporate shareholders. These things are scandal machines, as proven by the latest for-profit college conglomerate to be exposed as a fraud.

Student Protestors


Education Management Corporation operates four college systems, offering courses online and in office buildings in 32 states. EDMC gives its recruiters extravagant financial incentives to pressure low-income people into taking-out huge federal education loans in order to pay for courses at the corporation’s colleges.

EDMC has been sucking up more than a billion dollars a year from these students, who generate some 90 percent of its revenue. But its courses are mediocre to worthless, leaving graduates in unbearable debt and unable to get jobs with salaries high enough to pay off their loans.

Bear in mind that this sleazy fraud isn’t the work of some fly-by-night hucksters. EDMC is largely owned by Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs.

Thanks to some former students and a couple of corporate whistleblowers, EDMC has now been exposed and is paying a price for its extortion. Its stock price has fallen from $22 a share to — get this — 9 cents. And it’s also been hit with a $90 million federal penalty for fraud.

The whole system of corrupt for-profit colleges ought to be put out of business.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a member of the Public Citizen board.

  • davidmcdonald

    Right! And the State run schools are bastions of great thought because 90% of professors vote democratic. Totally balanced correct? And of course, tenure is always a non discriminatory vote, otherwise 100% would be liberal Democrats. Wake up Jim.

    • Strawman

      Kinda moving the goal posts, aren’t you? I looked in vain for anything in the article praising “non-profit” colleges.

      If there’s anything unsupportable that Mr. Hightower actually wrote, it would be of interest. I mean, he didn’t say anything in the piece about my neighbor’s overgrown lawn, either, but I decided to let it slide (this time).

      • obobooks

        The problem with “for profit” education is that it is narrowly focused – on profits. What good does it do a students when corporate for profit businesses make money, but the student isn’t able to “follow their bliss?” Do you like being told what to do, what to study, what to think? The corporate “persons” would like you to submit to what’s best for them – consumerism, profits, and the stifling of free thought.

        • Strawman

          Rereading my post I’m having difficulty understanding just what beliefs you’re attributing to me, so I can only say that I heartily agreed with Mr. Hightowers remarks directed at for-profit colleges. Full stop.

          How specifically stressing that point got interpreted as my preference for “being told what to do, what to study, what to think?” is beyond me. I have to wonder if I also inadvertently revealed my favorite color, in addition to my fervent approval of corporate machinations and opprobrium for “free thought.”

    • obobooks

      If 90% vote Democratic, then wouldn’t that
      be demonstrative of a democracy? What
      are you afraid of, David? If you’re looking
      for extra bucks, why not target the real culprits,
      the plutocracy, the .01%