The For-Profit Education Cesspool


    Harris Miller’s handy-work is churning away under the surface. Thousands and thousands of Americans who will never benefit from their matriculation at for-profit colleges are receiving their Form 1098-Ts unaware of the long-term damage to their futures. They’ve been sold a pig-in-a-poke; financially shackled for the remainders of their lives.

    It is disheartening that so many can be led to the slaughter so unawares. The purveyors of illusion didn’t learn their grift attending classes at the “colleges” they are selling and those “colleges” won’t provide the skills necessary to recognize the fraud being perpetrated on them. On the other hand, the victims never learned to be critical thinkers in their more traditional K through X experiences either.  

    Recently I crossed paths with a police Captain whose subordinate in the force had been teaching criminal justice courses in a Virginia Beach “for-profit” institution. On occasion, the moonlighting officer asked him to guest lecture. When he wasn’t invited for a period, he sought out the officer to find out why. Turned out that the officer had realized an ethical quandary concerning the additional income. The majority of the students in the classes were felons or otherwise disqualified for police service; many would never ever be allowed past the front desk of a station except for booking. The officer could not go on playing a role in this tragedy.  

    Two days ago I met a fellow who was having his taxes prepared. You might not know this, but with no income at all, you can get $1,000 from good old Uncle Sam simply by filing a tax return. You just have to be “furthering your education” and paying for the classes. “Paying” for the classes. This fellow had a little income (very little) and he was having his taxes prepared. He’d brought his 1098-T; didn’t know what it was, but it looked important. The preparer asked some questions. The form is difficult enough to interpret and schools do not consistently report information. But what was clear was that the individual had borrowed money to pay for the portion not covered by grants and “scholarships.” He never understood the paperwork “admissions” prepared for him and he’d signed. He’d executed a federally guaranteed student loan for the balance of the tuition not covered by those scholarships and grants (probably using up any Pell money he’d ever receive) without even realizing it. Of course, until he completes the “education” and he receives the first monthly bill, it won’t be clear. But at least he was going to get a “free” $1,000 out of the deal from Uncle. Well, the portion of it not taken for tax preparation fees.

    Then there is the grandmother raising two grandchildren on her own. Her daughter is a good girl who just fell in with the wrong crowd. She was striving at this late point in life to “better” herself. Responding to a slick mailer from a school that offered hope for a new career, she began a “nursing” program. She doesn’t understand that the term “nurse” covered any of a number of employment positions that would never pay enough to return her investment in time or money. She may not even live long enough to pay off the student loans even if she makes the payments for the rest of her life.

    Sure, there are many who have other avenues to pay for their adventures in the free market education sector. They can squander their post 9/11 GI Bill benefits on dreams that take you from ZERO TO BACHELOR’S IN 2.5. A most sought after sheepskin, you hear about job applicants embellishing their resumes with fraudulent claims of an ECPI degree all the time. Oh, I guess not. Anyway, like Pell grants, once the GI benefits are used, they are forever gone. In this case, into the coffers and pockets of the for-profit “college” grifters.

    Harris Miller is a prince of the industry, but there is plenty of “credit” to go around. There is a growing underclass of Americans. Our history is littered with tales of labor abuse of the defenseless members of this class. Financial abuse of the underprivileged is a modern concept enabled by faulty public policy and even faultier representation. Anyone involved in this industry is tainted by the scum in this cesspool. Their victims are drowning in it.


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