Going to the San Antonio campus of ITT Tech—one of the largest for-profit colleges in the country—was the worst choice I've ever made in my life. I try not to blame myself, because ITT Tech recruiters and staff used high-pressure tactics to get me to enroll. But my associate degree in computer and graphic design cost $55,000, and I make less with ITT Tech on my resume than I did with just a high school diploma. Even worse, ITT Tech's career services pressured me to lie and report that I was making three times as much, so their programs could appear successful. My family and I had to move 500 miles so I could get work that would support us.
If you think it's important that students like me don't continue to fall victim to for-profit colleges, urge the moderators of the Aug. 6 Republican presidential debate to ask the candidates why they continue to advocate for profits, not for students.
For-profit colleges enroll 11 percent of Americans pursuing college degrees. But former for-profit students like me hold 22 percent of all educational loan debt and default three times more often than average. So we're asking the Republican presidential candidates why, instead of protecting students, they've helped the for-profit industry grow.
Former for-profit students like me hold a disproportionate amount of the $1.3 billion in student loan debt that is suppressing economic mobility and innovation all over the United States. The majority of students at community colleges don't have to borrow at all to attend, but 88 percent of students pursuing associate degrees at for-profit colleges have to go into debt, with more than a quarter accruing $30,000 in debt or more. For-profit colleges are "quarterly capitalism" at its worst—they think only of their next earnings report to shareholders, and not about the students they are supposed to serve. So why are so many presidential candidates trying to expand the for-profit college industry?
Tell Fox and Facebook to ask the Republican candidates in the first 2016 Republican presidential debate why they choose to support for-profits at the expense of students like me.
For-profit students aren't the only victims in situations like mine. Most of the student loans that fuel the for-profit industry are federal—taxpayer-financed and taxpayer-guaranteed. So even when individual students faithfully repay their loans, more than 90 percent of these colleges' profits come from taxpayer sources. Why is the American public bankrolling the predatory business practices of the 1 percent?
Join my call for the moderators of the upcoming Republican presidential debate to ask the candidates why they care more about for-profit college investors than about students and taxpayers.
Former ITT Tech student