By the numbers: For-profit college math

You're currently reading an archived version of Jim Hightower's work.

The latest (and greatest?) observations from Jim Hightower are only now available at our Substack website. Join us there!

  • Tuition and fees charged by corporate colleges average $35,000 for a two-year degree and $63,000 for a four-year degree–more than four times the average cost of a community college and $11,000 more than the average 4-year bachelor’s degree at public schools.
  • Such high prices charged to low-income students mean that 96% of those who go to for-profit schools must take out loans (versus 13% of community college students and 48% of those in four-year public schools).
  • Those loans amount to $32 billion a year in revenue for private schools. That’s 25% of all federal student aid–and it provides nearly 90% of the annual income for the biggest for-profit colleges.
  • 88% of for-profit graduates leave school saddled with debt, which averaged a staggering $39,950 per student in 2012.
  • With interest rates, penalties, and collection fees assessed on the many students who struggle to pay off these loans, the real cost of a for-profit degree can end up being almost double the price of a Harvard education.
  • A two-year investigation by Sen. Tom Harkin revealed that in 2012 for-profits spent only 17% of their revenue on teaching, while 19% went to corporate profits and nearly 23% was dumped into marketing.
  • The Harkin study also found that CEOs of the corporate schools averaged $7.3 million in pay–about seven times more than top executives of large public universities.
  • The Department of Education reports that 72% of those who do graduate are in jobs that average less pay than high school dropouts.
  • Although only 13% of college enrollees, students from these schools account for 47% of loan defaults (half of them within three years).

I’m making moves!

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve started a Substack newsletter for all of our content. You’ll still find our older, archived materials here at, but the latest (and greatest?) observations from Jim Hightower are only now available at our new Substack website.

Check out »

Send this to a friend