Report: For-Profit Schools Preying on the ‘Underserved Third’
A report [PDF] published in the Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk and released to the public this week identifies three major segments of high school students: AP-track young people well-prepared for success in college, individuals prepared by vocational classes or postsecondary education to join the labor force, and a group which benefits from neither.
The latter group, which the authors term the “underserved third,” are left out to dry by the educational establishment—a “virtual underclass of students who are neither college-ready nor in an identifiable career curriculum.”
And preying on this unprepared segment, according to the study, are for-profit colleges.
“With their heavy investment in recruitment and marketing, for-profits have capitalized on the desperation of many first-generation college students whose career decision-making is void of much assistance from high schools,” reads the study.
Some of the blame, writes Daniel de Vise for the Washington Post, lies with the high school tracking system. Some students are channeled into college-preparatory programs while others investigate career-preparatory programs. The rest make it through high school, but don't have strong options after that.
Disturbingly, the authors estimate this underserved segment is the largest of the three groups, comprising some 40 percent of the high school population. Many in this group are unprepared not only to succeed in college or the workforce, but even to research and select a cost-effective college solution.
“Although the largest growth in two-year occupational enrollments has been at community colleges, the most rapid growth has occurred recently in the for-profit sector, which disproportionately serves lower-income minorities and can cost more than five times as much as community college tuition—and even more than average in-resident tuition rates at a state university,” reads the study.
The authors recommend policies that encourage students to explore vocational programs, as well as connecting employment during high school to careers after graduation. And students who decide to attend college, they argue, should be prepared to make an informed decision.
“For students who do choose to attend college, many arrive underprepared and unaware of career options,” reads the study. “Unfortunately, many who seek a concrete route to a good job pay the high cost of for-profit colleges when the same programs are often offered at much lower cost in community colleges or state universities.”
The study's authors include Regina Deil-Amen, an associate professor at the University of Arizona's Center for the Study of Higher Education, and Stefanie DeLuca, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University.
Jon Christian is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Christian.