Debt-Financed Degrees and Low-Income Students at For-Profit Colleges and Universities

Debt-Financed Degrees and Low-Income Students at For-Profit Colleges and Universities

Debt-Financed Degrees and Low-Income Students at For-Profit Colleges and Universities

Debt-financed degrees disproportionately affect minority and low-income students, and this undermines student success and outcomes. Of particular concern, evidence shows that debt-financed degrees are the norm at for-profit colleges and universities (FPCUs), yet many students select a for-profit college over a public or non-profit private school for a host of reasons including location, “less familiarity with college options,” aggressive recruiting, promise of career services and job placements, and fast-track certificate programs.

Professors Constance Iloh and William G. Tierney find: “When compared with their counterparts attending other higher education institutions, for-profit college students are more likely to be older, women, students of color, and come from lower-income and less-educated families.”(1)

Together, we can argue that pathways for low-income students to attend quality schools with minimal financial hardship matter. We can argue for an investment in instruction, too.

Another report: “The Debt Divide: The Racial and Class Bias Behind the ‘New Normal’ of Student Borrowing" by Mark Huelsman “reveals a system that is deeply biased along class and racial lines.”

The report finds near-universal borrowing at for-profit schools: “For-profit institutions also enroll disproportionate numbers of Black and Latino students. In fact, Black and Latino students make up fewer than one-third (29%) of all college students, but nearly half (45%) of all private for-profit students.”

Debt Divide Table 1

When FPCUs prioritize revenue stream over their students, it’s time to push back and support a new national standard of tuition dollars spent on instruction.

  1. Iloh and Tierney, “Understanding For-Profit College and Community College Choice Through Rational Choice.” Teachers College Record, 116, 080304 (2014), 6.

Tiffany Kraft

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