Are For-Profit Schools the Next Subprime Crash for Communities of Color? [Reader Forum]

Students of color are being left little choice but to flock to for-profit schools -- a section of the education industry with increasingly lax oversight. Could this be the next subprime crash in the making? Here's what you had to say.

By Channing Kennedy Jul 23, 2012

Last week, our hotshot education reporter Julianne Hing and our hotshot art and production manager Hatty Lee teamed up for a massive new infographic, (click through to see it for yourself) which details exactly where students of color are landing in a higher-education landscape increasingly inhabited by for-profit schools.

As Julianne writes:

In recent years, CCSF [City College of San Francisco], like many community colleges around the nation, has been forced to slash programs, raise tuition, and implement cost-cutting measures even as they enroll record numbers of students. For students of color, this has indeed become the central tension affecting the higher education ecosystem; demand for affordable, accessible public higher education is increasing at the very same time that public investment in those systems is on the wane. It’s changed the face of the ecosystem of higher education in the U.S.

Here now is a visual look at how exactly it’s shifted in just a handful of years, and where students of color find themselves today.

Higher education is an issue that most of our readers are dealing with right now — either choosing or attending a school, paying off loans from school, or figuring our how to pay for a kid’s college. Here’s what a few of y’all had to say on the Colorlines Facebook page:

Bena Uni Cornio:

For-profit colleges specifically target low-income/first generation students because they seek to exploit their lack of knowledge in the educational system and financial aid. The article does mention the massive loans burdened onto these students once they graduate. Students at for-profit colleges are more than twice as likely to default on federal loans compared to students at public institutions.

As an educational advisor, many of my students at City College will be there for 3-5 years before they are eligible to transfer to a public 4-year university because of the combination of low placement test scores and limited class availability. Students want to go to college and understand its importance in social/economic mobility. But for students who face multiple barriers entering the system, for-profit colleges are alluring because they offer easy enrollment (you only need a GED) and the promise of a degree in 2-4 years.

Georgia NeSmith:

I can tell you one big reason why so many students of color enroll in for-profit schools, particularly the online schools. Online, the teacher has no idea what color you are, and so you are on an equal footing with every other student.

Julia Plascencia:

For-profit colleges are exactly that: FOR-PROFIT! Don’t fool yourself with this so-called ‘colorblind’ argument. They are specifically targeting low-income students and students of color. So even if it is an online program, they still know exactly who you are.

[…] When you live in poverty, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of time and need to figure out a way to get a decent job fast! We’ve all seen the commercials promising good jobs, job placement, and economic mobility. The reality is that these jobs are practically minimum wage jobs with no benefits, and in the end not only now did you study for a job that didn’t deliver, but now you can still barely support your family and have a mountain of debt to your name. And the for-profit schools? Well, let’s just say they are laughing all the way to the bank.

Michelle Jb:

Thank God I’m a dual citizen. I went back to finish my degree but thought ‘Why amass debt in the US when I can live abroad, have the government pay for my degree and I only have to start paying it back after I make OVER $45K and it’s interest free? OR I just can just pay the $795 per class per term outright?’

Though the US has some exceptional universities, the debts are just absurd, and being a single parent of a special needs child, the less stress in my life the better. I feel for those of y’all who want to do better but are living the hurdles I used to live Stateside 🙁 ?

And here’s a few observations from our Twitter followers:

Each week, we round up the best comments in our community. Join the conversation here on, and on Facebook and Twitter.