PBS recently aired a Frontline special called College, Inc. which explores the dark side of higher education known as for-profit colleges and universities. Through this program, we get a look at the inner workings of a couple of big-name for-profit colleges like the University of Phoenix. College, Inc. uncovers a few underhanded practices, including excessive marketing, pressure tactics, and—to a certain extent—fraudulent claims used to lure students into enrolling.
Once students are enrolled, they get an education, but at a high price: thousands of dollars in student loan debt and sometimes a degree worth absolutely nothing due to inadequate accreditation. Nevertheless, these for-profits garner immense success, and their investors see millions of dollars in profits.
Although College, Inc. gives us a somewhat one-sided perspective of the for-profit education system, it does a good job of showing us just how big these institutions are growing and getting us to really think about what is happening with them. These institutions are essentially corporations designed to make money, grow, and make more money, all while pumping out potentially worthless degrees. As they are now, numerous people are significantly affected. Taxpayers fuel these institutions by providing students with the federal loans they need for school, and the students themselves wind up in debt.
Not all for-profit colleges may be as shady as the ones presented in College, Inc., but greater regulations are needed to ensure that these institutions keep their promises of education and future employment without taking advantage of vulnerable students. This way, investors share the benefits with students rather than keeping them all to themselves.