New Regs Should Go Further to Ensure College Is Worth the Cost

Making College Worth the Cost
Making College Worth the Cost

The Huffington Post reports that "The federal government is expected to get tougher soon on the nation's booming for-profit colleges by proposing that aid be cut to programs if most of their students don't earn enough to repay their loans."

Proposed guidelines from the Department of Education should be released publicly in a few weeks, and one option being considered would make colleges ineligible to participate in federal student loan programs if their graduates fail to earn incomes sufficient to make their loan payments -- a loss that would be the death knell of affected schools.

As I've written recently on The Huffington Post, singling out for-profit colleges as the worst exploiters of students is a red herring -- but one that supporters of the much larger nonprofit college industry are all too quick to exploit.

"If a student is seeking to gain nothing but a livelihood and your program doesn't purport to be anything but a vocational program, it seems fair to think of it in purely economic terms," Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, told The Huffington Post this week.

Why Go to College?

Here's the problem: Regardless of nonprofit colleges' grandiose promises of providing both a higher education and personal development, most people enroll in college because of its purported economic advantages. A recent survey of high school seniors conducted by WiseChoice found that 80% of students were enrolling in college primarily to get jobs and better themselves financially.

The notion that for-profits are engaged in workforce preparation, while nonprofits are engaged in something more high-minded and noble -- and that therefore, nonprofits' student financial outcomes don't matter -- is absolutely insane.

Whether an educational institution uses its students' fees to pay seven-figure salaries to basketball coaches (as so many nonprofit colleges do) or to pay dividends to shareholders is completely beside the point. Any college whose students graduate with debt loads that hurt them more than the education they received helps them should be deprived of federal funding.