My Opinion

As government takes down for-profit colleges they miss the real culprits of loans defaults-Bernie, making something “free” that doesn’t work, doesn’t make it better. 

Public colleges, especially two-year community schools, have higher rates of student loan defaults than even for-profit schools. (Just 20 percent of full-time students (in two-year colleges) seeking a degree get one within three years. That number rises to 35 percent after five years, but by then another 45 percent have given up completely and are no longer enrolled. With graduation rates that low, community colleges can be dead ends rather than gateways for students. NYT 3-11-15).

billy_bully_dunce_lg_clrThe main reason is they simply are not prepared for college, academically or sometimes emotionally. The vast majority of two-year community colleges have a success rate (graduation within three years) of less than 50%. Some states are far worse. In New Jersey the average success rate for its seventeen schools is 37% and none reach the 50% level.  Do you still think the problem is tuition?

And yet our politicians see the solution as making such a non-education “free.”

Of the 593,000 borrowers entering default in the most recent cohort, roughly 52 percent of them attended public colleges. Slightly more than a third attended for-profit colleges. Yet this one-third has been the primary target of the lion’s share of political rhetoric and rulemaking by the Obama Administration.

Certainly, for-profit colleges deserve closer scrutiny, particularly where taxpayer dollars are concerned. For-profits have a default rate of 15 percent, which is higher than the overall public sector rate of 11.3 percent. But this rate lumps in flagship public universities with community colleges. Among two-year institutions only, public schools fare worse, with a default rate of 18.5 percent, compared to 16.9 percent in the for-profit sector.

Source: Don’t Ignore Default Rates at Public Colleges | Economics21


3 replies »

  1. Not mentioned is the average amount of money owed, and defaulted on, by those who attended private for-profit colleges vs. those in public colleges.


  2. Although the default rate may be true I do not think you can totally blame the colleges.

    First let’s go back a few decades. Sometime pre-1980, New Jersey required all New Jersey colleges to administer a basic skills test to all new freshmen to determine their reading, writing, and math levels. Those who failed had to take uncredited remediation courses. New Jersey knew that high schools around the country were pushing students out door to get rid of them and this was decades before No Child Left Behind. Can you imagine how bad it must be now?

    Today, high schools push everybody to college. They are very few apprenticeships out there. Community colleges become the training ground where future job prospects get weeded out from fields like fire fighters, policemen, nurses, computer science, utility workers and chemical plant operators.

    Another thing that is not mentioned is that many community college run adult education programs for certifications. Anywhere from one to a dozen courses to get certifications from EMT’s and other medical and nursing fields to government job certifications, computer certifications, OHSA, and even fork lift operators. These people never graduate but they get certified.

    If you want to keep your welfare benefits, one way is to be in a school program. Tell them that you want to be a certified health aid and they will enroll you, get you a loan and then go to school. What is the chance for success there?

    My whole family has attended community college for one thing or another. I attended three different community colleges. I started at night my first year out of high school. One year I took four classes during the day while on shift work but I never graduated (nor got loans). After 29 years I was able to piece enough credits from here and there to get my bachelor’s degree. I think there are a small percentage of people who are forced to credit shop and work full time but I am sure they are not getting loans to do it.

    I believe that the community colleges are filling the role that they are meant to do and I would expect that some students find out early that they are not ready or mature enough to sit in a classroom and a community college is a much cheaper place to find out. I think in many cases government has thrown money at problems with the assumption that community colleges can provide the education and job training. Government is willing to back loans knowing that it may be years before someone can get a degree but the poor students do not know this. What government fails to understand is that community colleges and for profit schools cannot solve all the background problems of these type of students in order for them to be successful.


    • You are right, it’s not just the colleges, but pre-college as well and family structure too. I attended two CCs and a state school for nine years at night. My education was useless, but I was able to overcome the formal portion of education with experience. The point is that making public education free will accomplish nothing if we don’t solve the basic problems associated with the individual and those with the education system.


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