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For-Profit Colleges: Low Graduation Rates, High Student Debt

The median debt for graduates of four-year, for-profit colleges in Connecticut is more than $28,000. (Michael Fleshman/Flickr)
The median debt for graduates of four-year, for-profit colleges in Connecticut is more than $28,000. (Michael Fleshman/Flickr)
March 22, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. – Most students who enroll in for-profit colleges in Connecticut don't graduate, and those who do are deeper in debt, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.

The group's report says only 35 percent of students graduate from for-profit colleges in the state, compared to more than half of students at public colleges and two-thirds in private, not-for-profit schools.

And Lisa Stifler, the center's deputy director of state policy, says those who graduate from the for-profit schools finish with substantially higher levels of debt.

"Only 59 percent of students are able to repay any of their debt three years after they leave the school, and that's a sign that they are unable get employment in the program for which they studied," she said.

The report also found students from for-profit colleges default on student loans at three times the rate of students from public and private, nonprofit colleges.

Stifler points out that for-profit schools enroll higher percentages of students of color. While just over 11 percent of Connecticut undergraduates attend for-profit schools, 18 percent of those enrolled are African-American and 23 percent are Hispanic.

"Additionally, enrollment at for-profit schools is disproportionately low income, with 65 percent of students attending low-income at for-profit schools," she added.

She also adds that the evidence shows that for-profit colleges use aggressive marketing to draw students in.

Federal efforts to address problems at for-profit colleges face an uncertain future and in some cases, states are taking action. For instance, Stifler says legislation now in the Connecticut General Assembly would require for-profit colleges to spend at least half of all federal Pell grants and student loans on instruction.

"The State of Connecticut is taking the right step toward making sure that its students are both properly educated and protected from the abuses of predatory for-profit schools," she explained.

The legislation, Senate Bill 972, was approved by the General Assembly's Higher Education and Advancement Committee late last week.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT