For-Profit Colleges

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For-profit colleges and universities aim their hard-sell marketing pitch at the kids who are least prepared to make informed choices and the most likely to get government aid – first-generation college students and youth from low-income families

While the schools have grown very profitable on federal aid dollars over the past decade – outpacing the growth in all other segments of the education sector – the students are too often disappointed. Many end up dropping out of school, with thousands of dollars of debt and without the slick, easy career credential they were seeking.

The government, meanwhile, cannot decide how to prevent abuses in the system it is financing. Democrats and Republicans, as usual, are divided. And the news media make the students’ decision-making even more difficult by retelling only the gruesome stories of highly incentivized for-profit college recruiters who will sign up the most unlikely and unqualified young person, just to earn their commissions.

In an effort to prevent more disadvantaged students from being defrauded, Youth Today is offering these prospective college students and their advisers a factual guide that sorts out the strengths and weaknesses of the 29 top companies that operate proprietary colleges and universities in the United States. Here, for those young people who need what the for-profit schools are promising, is a resource based entirely on factual data that is public, but often is hard to find.

In this guide, we at Youth Today let the facts speak for themselves.  In preparing each of these profiles, the reporters contacted each company or school in an effort to learn its perspective on the educations it offers. Some cooperated with the newspaper; others did not. The reporters combed through stacks of statistics, Securities and Exchange Commission filings, state corporate records and hundreds of other documents to ferret out the information.

Schools that have yellow banners at the top of their profiles are privately owned and for-profit. The owners range from families with a century or more in the trade education field to companies that sprang up after World War II and later, as a result of the baby boomer generation’s demand for more higher education. Companies with blue banners are publicly traded on Wall Street. Frequently, their owners are private equity groups and hedge funds – or the husbands of a couple of senators.

The most consistent information from the U.S. Department of Education is for the 2008-09 school year. If not noted otherwise, the statistics included are for that year. Publicly traded companies must provide information to the SEC on a more timely basis. If the profiles contain information from those SEC filings, that is noted. Cost figures come both from the Education Department and the schools and companies themselves.

Tuition assistance or reimbursement by the Department of Defense or the Veterans Administration are not counted as part of the 90 percent limit of operating expenses that may come from federal financial aid programs.  Therefore, those figures are listed after the percentage of revenues derived from Education Department financial aid.

Finally, if the company has many schools or locations, we have used information from the largest campus (which is identified) in its system as representative.