Transforming the Industry
For-profit colleges and universities have been around since the 1920s. For-profit colleges provide accessible degree and course options, which make them the right choice for many students. However, the current pattern of aggressive and predatory recruitment practices, high levels of student debt and default, high withdrawal rates and lack of student support must change to providing quality, affordable higher education. Here are some suggestions colleges can take:
Improve Students’ Chances to Succeed
1. Stop Predatory Recruitment Techniques.
High-pressure techniques that enroll students or encourage students into taking out large student loans are reprehensible. Recruiting students outside of unemployment offices, welfare offices, or facilities caring for wounded veterans should be considered a predatory practice.
Establish an eligibility system to ensure that students accepted into programs have the necessary skills to succeed in the program.
Students should be adequately screened to ensure they have the skills to succeed in their academic program. Students who do not possess the necessary skills should be directed to training programs designed to prepare them for college before enrolling- and taking out loans- in a college program they are not prepared for.
Develop a student support system that is appropriate for the student body.
If a college accepts a high number of non-traditional students, it is the college’s obligation to offer them the services and support necessary for them to succeed. A federal report by the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance advocates for a number of steps colleges can take to support non-traditional students’ success, including offering life coaching and mentors and developing bridge programs to provide basic skills needed to succeed at college. The report recommends library and tutoring support be available around the clock in a variety of mediums, such as on-line and in-person.
2. Support Instructors
For-profit colleges and universities should partner with their faculty to develop innovative faculty training and development programs to improve student graduation rates.
At the “master teaching program” at the Fort Steilacoom Campus of Pierce College, faculty spend a week presenting and receiving feedback on a project they develop to improve their teaching. Faculty then implement the projects and assess if the proposed strategies improve student outcome. Projects approved by management are posted on the website and shared in training sessions with other faculty. Successful completion of the program results in salary increases.
3. Invest in Students After They Leave
Offer students career counseling and other assistance instead of pushing them to deferment or forbearance.
The practice of “curing” high loan default rates by pressuring students to agree to a deferment or forbearance on their student loans is abhorrent. Eight U.S. Senators have requested an investigation of this manipulative tactic, an abuse of the federal financial aid system. For-profit colleges should offer students career counseling, life coaching and other services to help them secure jobs that pay wages that will allow them to pay off their debt.
4. Take Responsibility
The CEO of for-profit Strayer University said for-profit colleges and universities should share in losses when students default. More than 1 in 5 students from for-profit colleges, or 22.7%, default on their loans within three years of entering repayment. In comparison, 7.5% of students at non-profit private colleges default within three years of entering repayment and 11% of students from public schools default. Further, 47% of students that have defaulted on their loans attended for-profit colleges. Since the high rate of loan defaults appears to be a problem within the for-profit system, the for-profit college should bear some of the burden. When students from a for-profit college default on their student loans, the college should bear the responsibility of paying back some of the debt owed by the student.
5. Improve transparency on student success and operations
Colleges should voluntarily publish information on student success rates, such as graduation rates, loan default rates, tuition cost and career placement rates, in an easily accessible manner. Further, findings and reports developed by accreditors should be made easily accessible to interested students.