This week, the US Department of Education accidentally showed just how badly the problem of for-profit college debt is intertwined with predatory loan collection: in a court filing, the Department of Education jacked up its estimate of its own illegal debt collection from 16,000 former students at bankrupt Corinthian College to nearly three times that amount. All while the secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who was held in contempt of court for the department’s actions, continued to refuse debt forgiveness for thousands of students ripped off by for-profit colleges.
From 1995 to 2015, enrollment at for-profit colleges went up more than 460% – more than 14 times that of traditional institutions. Meanwhile, students at for-profit colleges – mostly low-income, minority or first-generation college students – face challenges that severely compromise their ability to stay in school: my students suffered from homelessness, mental illness, abuse and bank accounts so low they couldn’t afford subway passes.
Those challenges didn’t matter to recruiters: skipped the SAT or ACT? No problem! As long as you had a pulse and a GED you were in. Once those students got to class we professors – whose yearly fire-at-will contracts made us particularly vulnerable to any kind of student complaint – were told to “work it out”.
The students got the message: they considered us waiters, essentially, and complained constantly about our bad service. Their mantra was “the customer is always right”, and the administration agreed: I got hauled in front of my department chair for such extreme professorial misconduct as pointing out to a student that she was late to class; for asking students to print their syllabi; and for having the gall to assign them actual work.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction