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Predatory For Profit Colleges

For-Profit Colleges are the Shady Used Car Dealer of the Education World

Like shady used car dealers, for-profit colleges target those in low socioeconomic standing, who are out of options, and unfamiliar with that system. They use pressure and scare tactics along with to-good-to be true fiance options. They have no long term investment in continues customers and only care about today’s sale.

At-risk, former foster youth, and the uninformed become targets

Former foster youth and youth in general have become targets for the predatory for-profit college system. I am a big supporter of college but I realize that college is not right for every person. There are tons of career paths open for youth and college isn’t the only one. We often direct or clients to college blindly. While being in foster care doesn’t guarantee free college, benefits like the Pell Grant and ETV allow these youth a chance for higher education. If they have good guidance and support (and are willing to take the advice), they can have much of their college paid for and use other assistance programs to come out with minimal debt.

Two case examples

In my most recent case, my client was contacted by Purdue Global and told that they could get scholarships to go to college. The Purdue Rep told them they could get scholarships and financial aid to pay for the program. They did not give them a realistic picture of the cost or what their portion would be. She chose to start classes because the sales person made it sound both cost effective and legitimate. Unlike community college or universities, they didn’t have my client complete any academic testing to ensure they had the capacity to pass the classes. She now owes $20,000 for a program that she wasn’t able to pass due to cognitive barriers.

In another experience, one of my clients who was an unaccompanied refugee minor was enticed into Lincoln College of Technology. They charged him the $40,000 tuition for the certification. He started to attend but he struggled with the material due to language deficits that were clearly present when he enrolled . My client couldn’t keep up and was unable to withdraw without owing the entire amount. He stayed enrolled, stopped going, and failed . This youth now owes $40,000 without a certificate to show for it.

Profit is the priority

These for-profit colleges are setting these vulnerable youth up for failure. Profit is the priority. It honestly disgusts me how education has turned into a field where people make money off of those who are uninformed. A friend of mine worked for Ashford University. He said “We are not academic advisers, we are sales people. I could get free tuition for working here but it is such a joke that it isn’t even worth the paper it’s printed on”. When education is used in this way, everyone loses… except big business.

A couple tips for identifying a for-profit college

  1. Doesn’t ask for academic testing to enroll. If they don’t care if you can pass the classes, they just want your money.
  2. You feel pressured to take “scholarships” or financial aid.
  3. They can’t promise their their classes will transfer to outside colleges.
  4. You are paying way more for your degree/certifications than the public option.
  5. The school doesn’t tell them upfront how much you will be paying, what scholarships you received, or how much exactly they will be taking out in student loans.
  6. They make you pay for the entire program upfront.
  7. Reps and advisers are weird when professionals are present to help clients navigate.
  8. Lastly, they say For-Profit in the Fine Print 🙂

For Profit colleges are no joke and they cause lasting consequences for youth and young adults (and everyone). For best practice, make to give clients ALL the information. It is not your place to make the decision for them but it is your place to educate them about the pro’s and con’s for the programs. Educate your client about predatory schools and how they look different that public school options. Make sure they know the differences between the different types of schools, certificates, degrees, and the expected salary once they have obtained the degree. Read reviews for the school or program. Attend information sessions and the initial meeting to help gather information. Help them to know that there should be no pressure. Help them to find lower cost public options and an alternate plan.



As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I often view the world through this lens. Social work shapes how I interact and understand every part of my life. Through social justice, policy, and even my own parenting, I am guided to view the world as a social worker.

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