Friday, July 31, 2015

War on the middle class: The five years at the college didn't turn out like she planned

War on the middle class: The five years at the college didn't turn out like she planned

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The things that pass for for-profit higher education, I don't understand.

Here's why blogging was lighter than usual this week -- my "war on the middle class" piece on for-profit colleges like the Art Institute of Philadelphia, heavily owned by Wall Street "vampire squid" Goldman Sachs, that do anything to get student in the door, almost entirely paid for with taxpayer-funded student loans, even as their underwhelming academic programs leave these middle-class students barely employable -- and hopelessly drowning in deep debt. The funny part is that it's the Obama administration trying to crack down on this waste of billions of dollars and its Republicans trying to block it -- more proof that the GOP cares about aiding a big business over actual fiscal responsibility.

Here's an excerpt:

Advocates say that the remarkable thing is that horror stories like those aren't that unusual. Thousands of middle-income students who've rushed to for-profit career colleges in recent years have been overwhelmed by aggressive recruitment, loose admission policies, overhyped academic programs, a crippled U.S. economy with few jobs - and, finally, their massive taxpayer-funded student debt, with little hope of repayment.

At the same time that enrollment at for-profit colleges - many now owned by large, publicly traded firms backed by big banks and investment houses - has soared to 11 percent of U.S. higher education, statistics show that these schools now account for a mind-boggling 48 percent of all defaults on federal student loans.

Call it what it is: yet another new front in the war on the middle class. In a nation already under assault from the crippling of American manufacturing and record long-term unemployment, a mortgage-foreclosure crisis and a political attack on labor unions, now the Wall Street sharpies are coming for your children, with soft money and hard promises about exciting careers that have been hard to keep.

"Like any sector, what Wall Street rewards is quarterly numbers," said Pauline Abernathy, a former Nutter administration aide who's now vice president of the Institute for College Access and Success, a nonprofit seeking a clamp-down on abuses by for-profit colleges. "There's pressure on these schools to increase their 'new starts' " - newly enrolled students - "regardless of whether the students are qualified, or can repay their loans."

This is part of a major commitment by the Daily News to cover the war on the middle class -- and we've only just begun!

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Will Bunch
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