The For-Profit School Disaster

The other night my daughter and I attended a graduate school fair. As we walked down the broad aisles, looking for the tables of schools she’s interested in, a man came up to us holding several canvas bags.

All the tables were laden with giveaways—school-branded pens, Post-its, writing pads, in addition to abundant literature about the various graduate programs. But this man was assertive—he wasn’t waiting for prospective students to come to his table.

He gave my daughter a bag, then one to a Hispanic man, and one to me. I was suspicious. Why was he giving them away?

When I pulled one of the items out of the bag, I soon saw why: The school was a for-profit—and nobody was going to its table.

The Exploitation of Students of Color


I’ve written about for-profits before. They’re known for exploiting black and Hispanic students, as well as veterans. But now that Trump is in office—remember that Trump himself had founded Trump University, a for-profit school which had, true to form, defrauded students—for-profits are seen more positively, undeservedly so.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has, in fact, approved the conversion of two large for-profit institutions to nonprofit status, BuzzFeed News reports, which could lend the schools greater legitimacy.


(Betsy DeVos. Image: Gage Skidmore)


Here’s an excerpt from BuzzFeed News.

The Education Department has offered its stamp of approval for the controversial sale of two massive for-profit colleges, Kaplan University and the Art Institutes, according to emails obtained by BuzzFeed News — allowing both schools to convert to nonprofit colleges. Kaplan, which was purchased by Purdue University, will become a public college.

The two high-profile conversions have been closely watched by the for-profit education industry, which sees them as a bellwether for future attempts to convert to nonprofits. More and more for-profit colleges have been eyeing conversions as the industry continues to struggle to enroll students.

But there were questions about whether conversions would be allowed by federal overseers. The Obama administration had begun to block such deals over concerns that schools would not actually operate as nonprofits, independent from the for-profit entities that once owned them. There were also worries in and out of the administration that nonprofit conversions were being used to evade regulations.

The approvals of Kaplan and the Art Institutes are a sign that under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the department is likely to take a far more laissez-faire approach to the conversions. The department, along with college watchdogs called accreditors, have ultimate say over whether the so-called conversions go through.

Kaplan University was bought by Purdue, the large Indiana public college, for just $1, in a deal that earned the blessing of former Obama education secretary Arne Duncan. The arrangement was orchestrated by former Indiana Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, now Purdue’s president.

The for-profit company will still be closely involved in the operations of the new university, an issue that raised eyebrows among some advocates. In the emails, though, the department said Purdue’s Board of Trustees had confirmed “Purdue’s complete control of the institution.”

The deal to sell the Art Institutes, owned by the company EDMC, is much murkier, because the buyer of the troubled schools is the Dream Center, a tiny, inexperienced nonprofit with Christian roots. The sale to the Dream Center had been criticized by advocates who said it would do little to help students at the troubled college and could mask hidden financial incentives.

Read more at BuzzFeed News.