For-Profit Colleges and Universities

Colleges and universities may be described in several ways, including degrees offered, location, and accreditation status.  Colleges and universities owned by private for-profit corporations have a primary obligation to generate money—a  return on the investment of their stockholders.  Sometimes actions that result in profit for owners are not in the best interest of students.  The U.S. Department of Education provides financial aid for students and monitors colleges and universities to determine whether they are violating laws intended to protect students and tax-payer interests.  The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) lists 303 private for-profit colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees.  Several for-profit colleges have been found to have practices that harm students or potential students.  Documentary films illustrate the ways that these corporations manipulate people by deceptive recruitment and enrollment practices.

What You Should Know

If you are trying to decide whether to enroll in college, and if so, where, explore the College Navigator on the NCES website.  Beware of for-profit colleges that aggressively recruit Black students and veterans.  Many of these schools offer attractive loan packages for high tuition and courses that may also be available for lower cost at a community college. 

Interviews with former administrators and recruiters reveal the motives and methods of for-profit corporations.

The documentary film, College Inc., and the documentary,  A Subprime Education shows how these companies have affected students who enrolled.  

Former students of for-profit colleges talk about their experiences and harmful consequences of financial arrangements.

This is an update of the 2010 Frontline documentary, College Inc. College, Inc., documents the promise and explosive growth of the for-profit higher education industry. Through interviews with school executives, government officials, admissions counselors, former students and industry observers, the film explores the tension between the industry — which says it’s helping an underserved student population obtain a quality education and marketable job skills — and critics who charge the for-profits with churning out worthless degrees that leave students with a mountain of debt.  Watch this film and share your experience with college recruitment.  For a view of the aggressive recruitment and consequences for veterans and family members using the G.I. Bill watch Educating Sergeant Pentzke.

This film describes the targeting and experiences of people who have military GI bill benefits for education.