Santorum Ignores Mass Student Debt, Makes Promoting For-Profit Colleges His New Election Issue

 Rick Santorum is apparently going to run on promoting for-profit colleges.

“This comes as a shock to some people, that the president would have a war on something. But this is consistent. He believes that private sector schools are somehow evil and they’re abusive, and his Education Department has done everything they could to make it harder for them to compete for loans and other things and to stay in business.”
Under the Department of Education’s “ Gainful Employment” provisions of 2011 for-profit colleges are cut off from federal student aid funding if more than 35 percent of former students aren’t paying off their loans and/or if the average former student spends more than 12 percent of his total earnings servicing student loans. 
A study published earlier this month in the Journal of Economic Perspectives indicated that the average former for-profit student earned $19,950 a year in 2009. The average former community college student, in contrast, earned $24,795. Some 40 percent of former for-profit students were unemployed more than 3 months after leaving their programs. 

The claim that President Obama is hostile to for-profit education is nonsense. As I’ve written here before my main problem with President Obama’s education approach is he is not hostile enough towards for-profit education in general, whether it’s colleges or K-12. It’s a big problem for me. I wish he’d occasionally defend or promote public education. For-profit education has more than enough lobbyists and sales people. We don’t need Obama’s Secretary of Education volunteering for those positions.

Rick Santorum is (allegedly) the rural, populist candidate on the Right, so I’m thrilled he’s going to be out there promoting for-profit colleges, because in my opinion, based on unscientific and unreliable metrics (the marked change in attitudes of the people who wander into this law office) for-profit colleges have created a vast pool of angry customers. I went to two public community colleges in this area, so when people come in and complain, we compare and contrast, thus allowing them to fully flesh out their rant. I’m more than happy to help gin up a little anger on this issue.

Further, there’s some indications that my anecdotal experience ove the last year or so may be more than anecdotal:

Enrollment at for-profit colleges has “plunged” in recent months, by more than 45 percent in some cases, the Wall Street Journal reports, as the empty promise of these “subprime schools” comes to light to potential students. The colleges “have pulled back on aggressive recruiting practices amid criticism over their high student-loan default rates,” and “many would-be students are questioning the potential pay-off for degrees that can cost considerably more than what’s available at local community colleges.” The Washington Post Co.’s Kaplan reports enrollment down 47 percent while large for-profit operator Corinthian Colleges Inc.’s stocks sank to an 11-year low. The schools receive millions in taxpayer subsidies via student loans, but often deliver a sub-standard education. For these reasons, the Justice Department has joined a lawsuit against the industry. 

I think we could assemble 300 enraged former students of for-profit on-line colleges in this county alone, and there are about 30,000 people in this county. They are deeply in debt, they can’t discharge the debt in bankruptcy, they are making 9 dollars an hour after investing years and borrowing tens of thousands of dollars, and they are angry. Then there’s the whole ripping off veterans angle. Rick Santorum may not be aware that veterans were and are targeted by these places, but there are plenty of real live veterans who can tell him all about it. Rural areas were a more fertile field for marketing on-line for-profits, because they have fewer education choices and longer travel times.

Republicans need to run up huge margins in rural counties like mine in states like Ohio, to offset the numbers in the populous counties, where Democrats run up huge margins. I don’t think shilling for these places is a winning message.

My hope is public opinion has turned on for-profit colleges in a meaningful, ground level, word of mouth way, among the people who actually used them and pundits and conservative politicians just don’t know it yet.

Balloon-Juice / By Kay | Sourced from

Posted at February 24, 2012, 7:29am

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