Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How For Profit Schools Hurt Communities

My Story, Part 1
My Story, Part 2
How For Profit Schools Hurt Students, Part 1
How For Profit Schools Hurt Students, Part 2
How For Profit Schools Hurt Their Own Employees, Part 1
How For Profit Schools Hurt Their Own Employees, Part 2

For Profit Schools Produce Unqualified Workers
One of the selling points of for profit schools is that they provide a quality education that is directed towards the work force, often focused on a specific trade as opposed to a liberal arts education.  In an idealistic world, it would be a place where students who can't succeed in a traditional college setting due to any factor (age, social skills, insufficient previous education, etc) can learn a specific skill set that will provide them with the opportunity to better themselves in a trade.  In reality, for profit schools are commercialized business ventures where education plays a secondary role to the main purpose of making a profit.  The end result is that thousands of "graduates" are being sent out into their communities without the skills or education they need to succeed in the workplace.  This doesn't just hurt the students, it hurts the local economy, the government who supports these graduates who can't find a job, and the communities where unemployment rates are already high.

For Profit Schools Produce Unwilling Workers
I mentioned the academic sacrifices employees have to make to hand-hold students last week.  It's bad for instructors who can't focus on academics and it's bad for students who don't get the academic attention they need, but it's also bad in the long run for communities.  The vast majority of students who attend for profit schools, in my experience, were on some form of government assistance.  In many cases this was absolutely necessary for their family's survival.  Unfortunately, it was also abused in many cases.  Overall, many students viewed school as another form of government assistance, especially since they didn't understand that they'd have to pay back the loans they were taking out.  

I can't count the number of times I was told by a student "I'm paying your salary" when they felt they weren't getting what they wanted (in the case of the library, this usually meant unlimited free school supplies; for instructors, it meant good grades, passing the course, less homework, shorter class sessions).  The problem is that the way the school runs is by keeping those students happy so that their (the government's) loan money would keep coming in.  As much as instructors fought against it, administration required that almost any steps be taken to keep students coming.  In the end, we sent out entitled graduates who expected unrealistic salaries and benefits.  Our graduates frequently failed to show up for interviews, came to work late, left work early, didn't show up for work at all, and then were mystified as to why they lost their jobs or never got jobs to begin with.  

For Profit Schools and Debt
I've talked about the negative impacts on students of the huge amount of debt for profit students go into - how they don't understand that even declaring bankruptcy won't get them out of these loans - they'll be haunted and pursued by the government forever and their interest will just keep compounding.  But the impact of these enormous government loans on the nationwide economy is also devastating.  We're talking about tens of thousands of students taking out enormous government loans that they will never be able to pay back, even if they are able to get a job in the field for which they are "earning" a degree.

Experts agree, we are facing a signification educational debt crisis, much like the recent housing crisis.  The real estate bubble was caused by people purchasing homes for more than they could afford to pay off.  The education bubble is being caused by schools giving out loans with enormous interest rates for more than students can ever hope to pay off.  In fairness, this isn't just a problem being caused by for profits.  Traditional schools are also giving out loans.  The reason this is a particular problem with for profits, however, is that students are paying significantly more for a two year degree than most state schools charge for four year degrees.  In addition, the students' associate degrees (and even bachelor and master's degrees) are less marketable and bring a lower potential earning wage than traditional degrees.  

For Profit Schools Devalue Education
There are several ways this happens.  The most blatant is that when for profit schools will, basically, sell degrees to students, the value of everyone's degree goes down.  If I can buy a degree from a for profit without earning anything, the value of the same degree that was legitimately earned is lessened.

Another way for profits decrease the value of education is by the devaluing of instructors.  I briefly mentioned this in my post on how these schools hurt their employees, but I think it's worth mentioning again here.  Employee turnover at my school was considered a positive thing - it meant that no one had to get salary increases.  Everyone could be paid as a new hire for the most part.  Obviously, I worked there five years, so that isn't across the board, but I never received a merit-based pay increase.  I got five cost of living raises.  In fact, our school's overall policy was that no one was ever given merit-based raises.  It meant the government couldn't accuse us of paying instructors more to keep students in class, but it also meant that no one really tried hard at anything other than meeting the numbers.  

In addition, teachers weren't treated by administration or by students with any amount of respect.  There was no regard for them as educators, and it was well-known that the administration would never back up an instructor over a student.  The general feeling was one of total disrespect for the profession and authority of instructors.  Some may not see that as a negative community impact, but I certainly do. A lack of respect and total devaluation of the work of educators is certainly harmful to the community as a whole, and I saw it continually in my work.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for running this series. It's depressing but fascinating.