Black students hit hard by for-profit college debt

Charlene Crowell (Communications Deputy Director, Center for Responsible Lending) | 1/7/2018, 7:39 a.m.
Undergraduate borrowing by state showed that the percentage of students that borrow from the federal government generally ranged between 40 ...
Everest College

Similarly, Elena, a 35-year-old Latina enrolled in a for-profit institution after seeing television commercials for the local branch of Everest College targeted at those without a GED, like herself. Assured by Everest that she would earn between $13-15 an hour working as a pharmacy technician, she thought that wage would have been enough for her to repay tens of thousands of dollars in student loans and interest she incurred. Yet, the best wage she could find with a pharmacy paid only $10.50 an hour.

Elena also shared that the financial aid officers at Everest encouraged her to apply for “all these monies [grants and loans] that I could get. And they took it all—all of it. And yes, I am left with this bill.”

These two personal experiences are magnified across the country with high female for-profit college enrollment. For example, the Midwestern states of Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin have female-dominated for-profit enrollment and disproportionate Black enrollment, too. These were also states with some of the lowest for-profit graduation rates after six years of study.

In Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi and North Carolina, median for-profit student debt levels at graduation in these five states was much higher than that of their public peers, ranging from $29,947 to $34,891 for for-profit students compared to $21,605 to $23,638 for public students.

Public colleges and private, nonprofit institutions in these same five states combined also had average Black enrollment rates that were noticeably smaller: Georgia (32 percent), Louisiana (31 percent), Maryland (28 percent), Mississippi (38 percent), North Carolina (23 percent).

These disparate outcomes are even more grievous when one takes into account that for-profit colleges are primarily funded by taxpayers, receiving up to 90 percent of their revenues from federal financial aid such as Pell Grants and federal student loans. Veterans educational benefits are additional taxpayer-paid revenues.

Finally, three years following graduation from a for-profit institution, former students in 44 states had double-digit default rates. These states included: Kansas, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

These and other findings document how Americans are investing heavily in higher education, but, in large part, the choice of institution determines whether they will receive what they paid for: gainful employment.

Charlene Crowell is the communications deputy director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at