We know one particularly disturbing fact: For-profit colleges and universities educate 12% of the postsecondary population, but have huge attrition rates and account for account for half of the federal-loan defaults, measured in dollars. That ratio suggests that the for-profits are only interested in enrolling students—any students—but don’t particularly care if those students graduate, get well-paying jobs and are thus able to pay back their student loans.
But I want to go a step farther and ask, “Who exactly attends for-profit colleges”? More skeptically, I wonder what kind of prospective student the for-profits are targeting by way of their extensive recruiting machines.
The results, it turns out, are though-provoking. The Institute for Higher Education Policy issued a press release on June 14 bearing the headline “More Low-Income Students Begin at For-Profits.” The key statistic that they relate: “low-income students—between the ages of 18 and 26 and whose total household income is near or below the poverty level—are more likely to be overrepresented at for-profit institutions and are underrepresented at public and private four-year institutions.”
Moreover, these representation ratios are part of a trend. From “2000 to 2008, the percentage of low-income students enrolling in for-profits increased from 13 percent to 19 percent, while the percentage enrolling in public four-year institutions declined from 20 percent to 15 percent.”
Ok, I’m not sure if I should be happy or despondent about the trend in recent popular literature bending towards my dissertation research.
This one comes closest yet to asking my question. However, like almost every other analysis it conflates SES with race which I think obscures valuable data.
In most aggregrate data on inequality the race variable operates above and beyond the combined effect of all other individual variables. That is to say that being poor, living in a high-crime, urban community and having the same generational poverty does not equal similar outcomes for blacks and whites. Blackness — or what blackness means societally — is greater than the sum total of all other parts. Being black is special. That we talk about it in this new post-racial way as if it is all just a matter of class says more about where we are politically than it does about any social science evidence.
So, yeah. Why are so many black kids choosing for-profits? That’s still the question.