Call for better regulation of for-profit colleges

April 28, 2011 3:19:22 PM PDT
Some of the Illinois' top lawmakers are calling for regulation of for-profit colleges. They say students often graduate from these schools with high amounts of debt from loans and diplomas that cannot help them obtain jobs because of school accreditation problems.

For-profit colleges rely on federal money to operate. Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Danny Davis are calling on Congress to step in and regulate the schools.

Durbin compares the practices of some for-profit colleges to the subprime mortgage crisis. Durbin accuses these schools of offering low-income students a passport to the middle class while leaving them with huge debt. Durbin says for-profit colleges are the fastest growing segment of higher education.

Megan Hansen is getting married in September, the same month she must begin paying $65,000 worth of student loans.

"I went to school for criminal justice, and they said, 'Find a job,' and it has not happened," said Hansen.

Hansen says she was sold a bill of goods from the for- profit school Westwood College. The 25-year-old says her degree is worthless because the school is not regionally accredited and her credits cannot be transferred.

"I even have family members that are police officers that have told me the same thing, you know, with the degree you have and where it came from, they're not going to consider it," said Hansen.

Robert Arnold owes over $15,000 for eight months of online course work at Everest College.

"I lost my job," said Arnold. "I was desperate, looking for new a path. I am 52 and have nowhere else to go."

Durbin and Davis says there are thousands of students who have been duped by for-profit colleges.

Durbin accuses several of the colleges of taking federal dollars through Pell grants and student loans while leaving students with debt and a worthless education.

"We're talking about billions of taxpayers' dollars going to these schools that are making huge profits, hundreds of millions of dollars," Durbin said.

Durbin says many of the institutions receive up to 95 percent of their revenue from the federal government.

Those stats do not surprise Antonio Diaz. He was fired as a recruiter from ITT Tech because Diaz says didn't sign up enough students.

"These colleges, as far as I'm concerned, know this. They know that they're advertising to the student populations who aren't ready to do what it takes to succeed in college," Diaz said.

Durbin and Davis say, while DeVry has a good reputation, many of the for-profits do not.

So the lawmakers say, if the industry doesn't regulate itself, Congress will.

"It's quite all right to make a profit, but let's not gouge," said Davis.

The parent organization of Everest College released the following statement, reading in part, "Corinthian Colleges believes that our schools offer our students a quality education and protect the interests of the taxpayers."

Westwood College says, of the Illinois school's 7,500 students and graduates, "Many of these students have successful careers working in businesses throughout the region."

Westwood says it does not guarantee employment. The college says it offered Hansen 30 job leads and claims she never responded to any.