10 Reasons For-Profit Schools Are Horrible Scams (Part 1)

(Op-Ed)

As the days begin to shorten and the humidity drops, we approach the end of another summer. Young people across the country are getting ready to return to college for another semester of buying overpriced textbooks while attending lectures taught by underpaid adjuncts. As millions of former high school students make their transition from classrooms to lecture halls, there are many who are enrolling in for-profit schools like the Art Institutes, Kaplan, or ITT Tech.

While these institutions may seem like a good choice on the surface, their overall mission is to turn a profit for shareholders, rather than investing in their students. These schools have destroyed the lives of thousands of students who were simply looking for an opportunity to better themselves.

Why precisely are these schools so bad? Here are ten reasons:

1. False Job Placement Numbers.

One of the biggest issues with these schools is that their counselors, under the pressure of quotas and performance-based assessments, frequently misrepresent the school’s job placement numbers, misleading students into investing their future into schools which might not actually help them succeed in the long-run.

In 2014, the city of San Francisco won a $4.4 million settlement from The Art Institutes of California after many students filed complaints accusing the school of inflating job placement rates while understating the cost of their programs.

Another lawsuit from the New York Attorney General led to a $10.25 million settlement with Career Education Corp which advertised job placement rates of 55-80 percent, rather than the actual statistic: 24-64 percent.

Corinthian Colleges, which was shut down earlier this year, have faced many, many lawsuits for misrepresenting their statistics.

2. Not Properly Accredited

When researching the brochures and websites of these schools, you might have noticed that they are accredited by organizations such as the Accrediting Commission for Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) or the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). While these might seem legitimate, a majority of the board members of these organizations consist of former executives from prominent for-profit schools, and neither of these groups have stripped any accreditation, even from institutions which face high-profile lawsuits and complaints from state and federal governments.

Why? Well, if either the ACCSC or ACICS strips an accreditation from a school, they will lose revenue. As a former senior policy adviser for the Department of Education says:

“It’s not like there’s active policing going on. You get under incredible amounts of pressure whenever you try to take someone’s accreditation away.”

Many prospective students are told that these for-profit schools are properly accredited and without further research, won’t realize that most, or all of their credits won’t transfer if they later decide to switch schools. For instance, Amy Robin, a former Art Institute of New York student, transferred to the City University of New York (CUNY) system and lost all of her credits, despite being told that they would transfer. She owes $80,000 in loans for essentially zero credits.

3. Performance of Recruiters Based on Admissions.

You may have noticed that the recruiters at your school are very persistent, constantly pressuring you to get your application completed as soon as possible. You might have thought to yourself: why are these admission counselors so impatient? The truth is, if your advisers seem more like salespeople then employees of an academic institution, you might be making a bad decision.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint under the False Claims Act against the Art Institutes, for giving incentives to counselors based on the number of students they enrolled. Other notorious for-profit schools such as Devry and the University of Phoenix have also faced similar lawsuits.

For more evidence of the quota-based culture for these educational “advisers”, check out these documents from the Art Institutes, obtained by the Huffington Post.

A comprehensive investigation by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions have also revealed similar findings:

“Recruiting materials indicate that at some for-profit colleges, admission representatives were trained to locate and push on the pain in students’ lives. They were also trained to ‘overcome objections’ of prospective students in order to secure enrollments. Additionally, companies trained recruiters to create a false sense of urgency to enroll and inflate the prestige of the college.”

4. Students Receive Insufficient Information

Many students who are interested in these for-profit schools legitimately want to improve their lives but lack sufficient information about their desired field of study. One unfortunate result of the quota-driven dynamics of these recruitment departments, is that advisers are pressured to mislead students with incomplete information.

For instance, the Justice Department opened an investigation into DeVry for offering an associates degree program in Health Information Technology without providing adequate information about degree requirements or the job market. Unsurprisingly, Corinthian, ITT Tech, and Apollo Group have all been accused of similar practices.

5. Veterans are Targeted

Many Americans join the military because of the GI Bill, which provides free, or deeply discounted higher education to veterans upon completion of their service. Since the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, for-profit schools have aggressively targeted veterans to receive federal aid from these programs. The Apollo Education Group and Corinthian Colleges have both faced federal lawsuits for incorrectly using Military seals in their advertising, tricking service members into thinking that these U.S. Military has a direct relationship with these schools.

The University of Phoenix even has a military division and their advertisements are heavily featured on military programming. Many of these schools also have dedicated military enrollment advisers, which visit injured Marines to pressure them into signing up for programs.

As one Army vet and former University of Phoenix student from St. Petersburg, FL wrote on the GI Bill’s Facebook page:

“I researched the accreditation and it seemed legit. I had no idea…none of my schooling would transfer. A lot of places see the guaranteed GI Bill as cash in hand and it’s a shame they take advantage of us.”



David Robin

Lifelong progressive and activist in solidarity with oppressed people around the world. During the day, I'm a Social Media Manager and Office Manager for an energy storage start-up. On the side, I'm a Millennial organizer for Bernie Sanders, social media consultant (DRSocialMedia.me), and the co-founder of Angry Millennials. I also have a MA in Sociology from The New School.


%d bloggers like this: