Academic studies comparing before and after earnings of graduates of for-profit schools show modest increases in pay after completion of training. Will the graduate who earns a technical degree from a for-profit school make as much as a graduate of a four-year public or private college? Not likely -- but to say, as the education secretary has repeatedly, that they will make less than someone who drops out of high school is dishonest and suggests an agenda other than protecting future students of such institutions.
For-profit schools serve an important niche in our post-secondary education system. Despite President Obama's oft-stated goal of making college accessible for all young people, attending a four-year institution does not make sense for everyone. The students most likely to pick a for-profit program tend to be older, and many of them are already parents and are either working at low-skilled jobs or out of work. They want skills that will help them find jobs, but they can't necessarily afford to pay out of pocket or to attend programs full time. Without loans, they cannot get the training they need.
No doubt there are unscrupulous players in the for-profit sector who offer more than they can deliver. But, as in the rest of the for-profit economy, companies that don't deliver what they claim run out of customers fast.
The default rate on student loans is notoriously high -- but it is actually higher among former students of community colleges, 15 percent, than among those who attended for-profit programs, 13.6 percent. Both groups have high default rates because they include disproportionate numbers of relatively low-paid workers stuck in an economy that is no longer producing enough jobs. The administration hasn't served this population well to date, and its proposed rules will simply penalize them further.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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