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The Future Of For-Profit Colleges

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks to the news during a press conference.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks to the news during a press conference.

Higher education facilities like the University of Phoenix and Capella Universities have been heavily scrutinized by journalists and the federal government alike.

That’s because they are for-profit colleges. But under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, regulations around them may change.

On Friday, DeVos’ administration moved to eliminate a rule that required for-profit college to demonstrate that enrolled students can be gainfully employed.

From The New York Times:

[The rule] sought to hold for-profit and career college programs accountable for graduating students with poor job prospects and overwhelming debt by revoking federal funding and access to financial aid. After a 30-day comment period, the rule is expected to be eliminated July 1, 2019.

Instead Ms. DeVos would provide students with more data about all of the nation’s higher education institutions — not just career and for-profit college programs — including debt, expected earnings after graduation, completion rates, program cost, accreditation and other measures.

For-profit colleges are controversial. Some have saddled their students with huge debts and have garnered students with strong, aggressive recruiting tactics. But they’re bankable and Vox reports that “by 2010, private for-profit colleges accounted for about 10 percent of student enrollment at four-year post-secondary institutions in the US — over 2 million students.”

What’s ahead for students, professors and administrators at these universities? What might DeVos’ proposed policy mean? How can for-profit colleges generate better student outcomes?

Produced by Avery J.C. Kleinman. Text by Gabrielle Healy.


Tressie McMillan Cottom, Author, “Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges In The New Economy”; Assistant Professor of Sociology, Virginia Commonwealth University; @tressiemcphd

Aaron Ament, President, National Student Legal Defense Network; Former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the General Counsel (2014-2017); @AaronSAment

Steve Gunderson, President & CEO of the Association of Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU); Former United States Representative, Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District (1981-1997); @CECUed

Xavier Becerra, California Attorney General;


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