Friday, December 15, 2017
Editorials

For-profit colleges: raw deal for taxpayers

The for-profit college industry would barely exist without federal tuition aid, but a new report by U.S. Senate Democrats says that taxpayers are getting a raw deal. The real beneficiaries of the for-profit college sector are not students seeking to brighten their futures with more education. They are the executives and shareholders who have built a "profits over academic progress" model.

The study released by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is the culmination of a two-year investigation into the unsavory practices of for-profit colleges. This industry receives more than $30 billion a year in taxpayer funds. Yet more than half of students withdraw from for-profit schools by the end of two years. For associate degree students, the statistics are more abysmal, with 64 percent of students leaving before completing their degree. Students leave mired in debt without the academic credentials to help them pay it off. For-profit students account for about 13 percent of college enrollment yet constitute 47 percent of loan defaults. More than one in five students in for-profit colleges will default within three years of entering the start of repayment.

These default rates are due in part to the high tuition charged. Students in for-profit bachelor's programs were charged an average of 20 percent more than a similar program at large public universities. And for those seeking an associate degree, it cost four times what community colleges would charge.

Meanwhile, top executives and shareholders are well-rewarded even if their students fail. Publicly traded for-profit college companies had an average profit margin of 19.7 percent and paid their top executives an average of $7.3 million, compared with an average $3 million for the highest paid nonprofit colleges and $1 million for top leaders at public universities.

For-profit schools say they fill a need by serving populations of nontraditional students who may be working while going to school or are the first in their family to attend college. But the Senate findings reveal that schools pour far more money into hiring recruiters and marketing to get students — prepared or not — through the door than providing services to those who founder. The ratio of recruiters to student services staffing overall is about three to one.

Recruitment is everything at for-profit colleges, and internal documents from the industry and interviews with former employees found a culture of predatory methods. Military veterans are a particular target of high-pressure tactics. Some schools have gone so far as recruiting at wounded warrior centers and veterans hospitals.

The study by Senate Democrats shines a light on unethical practices of an industry that may have some good actors but too few overall. Students as well as taxpayers should be demanding tighter controls and a better deal.

Comments
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17